New St Leonards store hits the spot
On a lazy summer mooch across town, HOT’s Chris Connelley discovered a new retail treasure at Marine Court.
When we think of spending time in St Leonards, most of us head straight for Norman Road, which offers up a beguiling mix of specialist small outlets, galleries, eateries and small outlets, artfully combining vintage clothes, furniture and fabrics in the type of shabby chic setting that inevitably evokes old school Notting Hill before the investment bankers moved in.
Kings Road, also on the up as its back-to-back charity shops give way to independent stores, is also worth a punt. More recent arrivals include a funky new interiors ‘pop-up’ flogging coastal kitscherie alongside the obligatory hipster must-have accessory, the Eames chair; and a seriously good wine merchant hosting ‘sell-out’ fizz tastings.
Less obviously enticing, but definitely worth a trawl is the set of shops lurking beneath the modernist masterpiece Marine Court, which, once you get past the distinctly unhip OAP seating superstore at the east end, includes yet more galleries, the invariably interesting Hastings Art Forum, a few food and drink places, a rather good independent cycle shop and, as of last week, the sleek art-cum-book-cum-gift shop-cum-coffee bar-cum-social action hub that is St Leonards Central.
The business is the brainchild of veteran activist and social entrepreneur Clive Gross, drawing on an eclectic career in the music industry, business mentoring and retail. It aims to showcase the best of the area’s creative economy, whilst providing a meeting place for those with good ideas, those wanting to improve the neighbourhood and those keen to promote sustainable development in what is an increasingly fashionable location.
The shop is just one of Clive’s pursuits, another being his regular blog, the St Leonards Warrior, which best sets out his broader social agenda. If past posts on municipal mediocrity and the ingrained culture of free events are anything to go by, the blog is happy to be provocative and to take on established orthodoxies.
Which is unsurprising given Clive’s independent candidacy in May’s borough council elections, when he stood against long-standing council leader Jeremy Birch in his home ward of Central St Leonards, widely considered to be sacred Labour territory. Acknowledging the David-and-Goliath nature of the contest, Clive is clear that he never expected to win but rather wanted to open up new thinking. Indeed, his incisive, elegantly crafted manifesto attracted plaudits from across the spectrum.
As far as the shop goes, his thinking seems spot on. He has a keen eye and has sourced an enticing and eclectic range of products for his launch. Helpfully, his coffee is really good too, and he clearly knows his flat white from his skinny caramel macchiato, by no means a given in the congested, but indifferent, St Leonards coffee market. Perched on the sea-front, just seconds from the beach, he is ideally located to provide caffeine-loving sun-seekers’ their takeout fix, whilst there is a bijou seating area for those wishing to sip and browse.
St. Leonards Central is now open daily from 10am to 6pm after a soft launch. So give it a go and it may even become central to your life.
St Leonards Central 11 Marine Court, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 0DX.
St Leonards Warrior blog.
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