As part of our Reopening High Streets Safely project, we’re celebrating retail gems and highlighting some of the incredible businesses which can be found in every corner of Eastleigh Borough. If you are a fan of a Borough business, nominate it as a Gem by emailing RHSS@eastleigh.gov.uk
Malik Usmonov runs Hursley Café in Hursley Road. Malik has been in business since 2017 and takes great pride in serving his local community. The café is well known for its food and drinks, especially its breakfasts and very popular thick milkshakes. During lockdown, he has altered his opening hours - the café is open from 8am until 2pm - for click and collect on 99% of the café’s menu. Inside the premises, he’s installed new embossed screens between tables, hand sanitisers and accommodated social distancing and cannot wait to welcome everyone back inside whenever that will be possible.
LA Dog Grooming
LA Dog Grooming salon and pet spa on the main high street in Chandler’s Ford is owned by Anna, Aimie and Lorraine, who met via dog grooming and decided to set up business together. Closed during the first lockdown, they were able to subsequently reopen safely to customers – their new COVID safety measures include a sanitiser for banknotes. Anna said: “We work with dogs because we love them! Our clientele includes lots of doodle dogs with ‘teddy bear’ hair - most owners are looking for a practical cut for the body combined with what’s known as a ‘teddy bear’ cuddly head”.
Waffles & Cream
This bright and colourful café in Fryern Arcade, Chandler’s Ford is a family concern; it’s run by local resident Hannah with support from her parents - mum Jennie is on hand regularly as a member of staff behind the counter. The shop recently celebrated its second birthday and Hannah has innovated and adapted as lockdowns have demanded; the premises now has a larger kitchen and the menu has expanded to include toasties and paninis in addition to popular waffles, milkshakes and churros. Hannah’s outside seating will be invaluable in the coming months and warmer weather.
Mermaids of Botley
Have a chat with the team in traditional deli Mermaids of Botley, they can tell you all about the provenance of their products. During lockdown, the team served at the door behind a screen and offered graze boxes, afternoon teas and cheese boxes via their website, delivering to the local area. Owner Jono says: “Being on the beautiful high street, we wanted the look and feel of the shop to be traditional and as if it’s always been here. Whilst delivery has allowed us to continue reaching customers, for a small independent shop you can never deliver as many times in a day as you would have customers visit you at the shop. So, although it has been a lifeline, like many businesses we are certainly looking forward to opening the doors again and welcoming people back in!”
The River Rat
This popular Hamble restaurant is run by local sisters Laura and Sarah. Following in the footsteps of their parents - who ran a Hamble restaurant in the early 2000s - they took over the River Rat in summer 2019 to offer a unique dining experience at the top of the cobbled high street. The venue, which has a garden and outdoor BBQ/bar space, offers popular theme nights and during lockdown, they’ve adapted to offer themed takeaway meals (paella and French night have been popular).
Sarah said: “Most businesses naturally struggle in their first year and having the added strain of the pandemic has been unimaginable. During lockdown we’ve joined in with the village initiatives and we’re very lucky to be in Hamble where the local community are fantastic. We have used lockdowns to invest in the restaurant and have extended our kitchen, leased and knocked through the next-door property and added an outdoor bar and new all-weather coverings to our garden.”
The Flower Shop, Hedge End
Owner Sonia and her team have been working hard during the pandemic behind closed doors to accommodate contactless deliveries and click and collect via phone / online. Their occasion flowers, balloons, teddies, vases, giftcards, chocolates and fruit have brought smiles to faces during this very difficult time. Sonia knows the area well; she’s been running The Flower Garden in Hedge End since 2006, when she took over from the previous flower shop where she’d been an employee for 7 years.
She said: “We have a wide local delivery area and also provide a nationwide and worldwide service. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our customers back into the shop when we reopen safely.”
Local man Kevin had an idea for bike shop Botley MTB during the first lockdown in June 2020 – just a few months later it was a reality on Botley’s high street. He and his team have been able to remain open throughout subsequent lockdowns operating safely and securely, even serving hot drinks from the hatch at the side of their building. Kevin certainly knows the market; he’s a qualified mountain bike guide and has engaged a pro rider to work with his brand as he builds the business.
Kevin said: “We missed the initial bike boom during lockdown but the electric bicycle market has been growing and I think it’s set to explode.”
Beales Gents Hairdressers
Bob Richmond and the team at Beales Gents Hairdressers have been serving the community in West End since 2002. Bob lives above the barbershop and has become a very well-known local. During lockdowns, plastic screens were installed in the shop’s booths and a staff rota was introduced, but the team are delighted to have finally reopened their premises to customers.
Bob said: “I am extremely grateful to have received council funding to keep me going throughout the pandemic. I have been very busy taking bookings!”
Hannah Lewis’ Bridge Beauty started life in 2008 before going mobile due to business and personal circumstances. Hannah has now been at her current site at Hursley Road in Chandler’s Ford – which her mum found - for nine years offering treatments, massages with dreamtime teas for afters, shellac nails, extensions and more.
She has been nominated as a Gem by client Sam V who said: “Through lockdowns, she was on Facebook Live checking in, making us all laugh and she gave away a huge bouquet of flowers. More recently, she became a COVID vaccinator. She looks after her staff, clients, her social media followers and her family. She really is just one in a million.”
Hannah said: “My business means so much to me and has always been a labour of love; I hung the doors, I wallpapered. I am so honoured to have been nominated and it makes everything worthwhile. I put my clients first and I try to go the extra mile as being an independent business I think you really need to show what you can offer and that you care.
“There’s a real community feel in Chandler’s Ford and local business connections have increased over lockdowns – we message a lot over Instagram. Scott from The Green Room is brilliant and always let me borrow some till roll as I was forever running out when I started!”
Blue Butterfly Studios
Amy Fern was about to celebrate the first anniversary of Blue Butterfly Studios in the town centre when Covid happened. Amy, who has been teaching dance for over 15 years, had a dream of building a community hub right in the heart of town. With the help of her family - the studio was built by her husband and has branding designed by her brother's company Diguru - she transformed Unit 1 of The Swan Centre, Eastleigh, opening in April 2019, and now, in addition to three dance studios and rentable space, it has a café and the Blue Butterfly Beauty salon.
Amy said: “We would love our studio to be a place with something for everyone, somewhere that can offer fitness, workshops, seminars and much more. I would like to add a breastfeeding support group, too. The local community is very supportive and The Swan Centre has been absolutely amazing. I’m apprehensive but excited about being back and open again. I have been itching to get going and we have had a really good response. All my students’ parents have been amazing – if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Sea Sky in Hamble is run by Debbie and Susie, who used lockdowns to develop their website and offered free delivery for local orders. They also focused on their bright shop window, altering its content to cheer anyone who walked past on daily exercise.
Introduced by the previous owner of the space, they went into business together despite having only met a few times. But it worked out very happily and six years later they are still thriving, having combined their backgrounds of printmaking and retail (Debbie) and theatre and design (Susie). They love being a part of the friendly village community; they showcase the work of local artists and a local superyacht rigger makes the dog leads they sell.
Debbie, pictured, said: “The COVID crisis was very worrying but we were determined to keep our heads above water and the grants were so important. We’ve been so well supported by the local community and they rallied round to ask how they could help, buying gift vouchers and so on. We made little videos and sent them to our customers to help them choose the items they wanted from around the shop. Now the website is done, we’ll carry on selling online – we now get orders from all over the country.
"We have to love a thing to sell it and we’re always on the lookout for new quirky things; we try to stock directly from independent suppliers and we cater to any pocket.
“We’re really looking forward to restarting our workshops – we had a fully booked calendar for last year which had to be cancelled - using our space so that people have a lovely creative experience with no pressure.”
The Hog Shack
Pete from The Hog Shack in Eastleigh greets many customers by name as he serves his lockdown menu of bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches from his Bishopstoke Road cafe/deli a short walk from the town centre. This hugely popular family business has adapted for COVID by opening part-time three days a week, ensuring fans can still get their hands on their favourites including Biscoff flapjacks and Marmite sausages.
The Hog Shack began ten years ago in Pete’s back garden with the BBQ and hog roast before he opened in his current location in April 2019 selling award-winning products including faggots, sausages, black pudding and bacon, as well as coffee and quality traybakes. He grew up in the area and loves building relationships within the local community, offering locally-sourced jams, chutneys and honey, and supporting students from Eastleigh College. A recent experiment offering Maltese Pastizzi was such a success that he plans to repeat it very soon!
Good Companions in Leigh Road is run by Claire and Dan with a little help from their young son Theo. This family business has been operating for almost three years and enjoyed a fantastic first 18 months before COVID hit. They’ve used lockdowns to completely revamp, renovate and repaint the premises inside and out, improving their large outdoor space to the rear of the premises. The area already had a safe and secure play space – and a dog water bowl to cater for any canine customers.
The spacious self-contained function room upstairs has also had a makeover. It offers a private bar and seats 50 (100 standing). Dan, who is a chef by trade, designed the pub’s menu which offers homemade classic fare – including very popular sausage rolls.
Bay leaves Larder
During lockdowns, Bay Leaves Larder deli and coffee shop in Hiltingbury Road has continued to serve its local customers, using the closed café space to prepare special treat and afternoon tea boxes for click and collect. Owner Sarah has spent the last 13 years working to bring the best of the county’s food and drink – currently over 40 Hampshire suppliers, including Chandler’s Ford’s Ahmad Tea and a range of local gins – to her community, alongside homemade smoothies, hot drinks, cakes and fudge. The business has added an environmentally-friendly refill station for cleaning products and it’s already proving popular.
Sarah said: “I always wanted to set up a business like this in my local community and pre-lockdowns, customers travelled from Romsey and Winchester to visit us. We can be very busy, particularly at weekends – we often sell more than 60 Uptons of Bassett sausage rolls on a Saturday!”
The Munch Box
The Munch Box in Bournemouth Road is run by Angie and Kae, who have been serving fresh sandwiches and buffet lunches for meetings and businesses from the site Mon – Fri, 8am – 2pm, for nearly 20 years. Originally from London, they came to the area to be near family and never imagined they’d still be here all those years later. They offer a comprehensive range of lunch options with every kind of sandwich you can think of, including vegetarian and vegan, in addition to specials such as chicken madras boxes.
They’ve been nominated as a Borough Gem by K, who said: “Everyone at work was desperate for them to reopen. They make the best sandwiches without doubt!”
Angie said: ”We offer value and really fresh produce. We can make everything to order so if people don’t like something we can change it for them, and we’re always open to ideas and suggestions. It’s lovely to be back at work. It’s been quiet but gradually people realise we’re open. We know the majority of our customers really well and we have built up good relationships. The banter with them is what we have really missed.”
Artisan Meze Bar
Artisan Meze Bar in the High Street is run by Hasan, who has lived in Eastleigh for 25 years and feels very passionate about the town, so much so that he opened sister restaurant EVI Bakehouse opposite Artisan during lockdowns. Run by his son Oz, EVI serves fresh pizzas made by Italian chef Andrea, fired in the vast Gozney oven.
Artisan’s Turkish and Mediterranean dishes have proved popular since it opened 10 years ago, evolving from Hasan’s first Eastleigh business Guzel Meze Bar. Particular customer favourites include the lamb with yoghurt and the varied tapas options, and it has been nominated by David B, who said: “It’s the perfect place to meet for a coffee or a drink and a chat. Hasan never forgets your name and welcomes you like a long lost friend. It serves superb meals, blending Turkish cuisine with English tastes while providing the perfect atmosphere. Now lockdown is over, we’ll return to our habit of migrating there after our Lions meetings at The Point. We find it encourages good decisions and even better ideas!”
Hasan said: ”I first came to the area because of my wife, and I wanted to set up a business here to give something to my community. People like to come to enjoy our small tapas as it works well for more casual dining too. You can get five or six lovely dishes in one visit.
“I love Eastleigh – it has character – and I care about it; I didn’t come here to do nothing and to offer nothing. I want to make where I live the best it can be. I have settled here and I will finish my life here. It’s in my heart.”
D&G Hardware, Chandler’s Ford
The warm welcome at D&G Hardware, which has remained open throughout the pandemic as an essential retailer, is appreciated by its customers including Jon T, who has nominated it as a Gem: “It's an amazing and very useful shop that sells almost any household product you could possibly imagine and manned by very friendly staff!”
Owner Toby and his team have been delighted to continue to support their community, many of whom they know by name and sight. The shop, one of a small award-winning Hampshire chain, has been in Fryern Arcade since 2008 and relocated from the corner unit to welcome Costa to the Arcade.
Toby said: “Our stores are old-fashioned but we offer a quality personal service and branded items. Our customers trust us with the products and recommendations and we have continuity with our fantastic staff – we’re very lucky with our team.
“It has definitely been tough but we were shut for just one day at the start of lockdown when we worked out what to do; a plastic screen was very difficult to get hold of in March last year! Our delivery service helped those people in the community who were self-isolating, especially older residents, and the relationships that we have built were so crucial.
“I’d say we’re not for everyone but we’re for most of the people all of the time - we need our customers and they need us. The shop is definitely an Aladdin’s Cave and we can offer, for example, individual batteries of any size, which isn’t something offered by other retailers.”
The Cornish colours of the Pirate Pasties flag stand out on Hamble’s high street; owner Hulya, who runs the business with her Cornish husband Marcus, dreamed of selling freshly baked award-winning pasties from Redruth in their adopted home county of Hampshire.
The business began life in an old van in Westquay in Southampton before closing due to lockdown, so Hulya and her husband Marcus swiftly relocated to Hamble and to the perfect premises near the water with a hatch to serve passing sailors and visitors to the harbour. They now have outdoor as well as indoor seating.
Hulya, who is originally from Turkey and met Marcus working on a ship, said: “I love socialising and I love people so this is perfect as the village is beautiful and so welcoming. We have so much planned now that we can open again. We care about our customers and I love serving at the hatch window. We get a lot of people who pick up something on the way to sailing. It’s a little something different and we are so very happy to be here.”
Cosy Café in Market Street is run by Alex who has been there for seven years since starting off in the business as an older teenager. He is very passionate about achieving the highest standards for the popular town centre venue.
The café has been nominated as a Gem by Julie R who says: “The Cosy Café is always spotlessly clean and everyone is warm and friendly. They do the best roast lamb dinner on Sunday that I’ve ever had with a pudding and a drink as well. In the week, every meal is really good.”
Alex said: “Lockdowns were so tough and we were closed for 11 months but we used the opportunity to fully refurbish the entire café and kitchen space. Everything is new - lighting, seating, everything - and our regulars love it. It has also brought in some new customers which is fantastic. We were able to add outdoor seating as we welcomed customers back.
“For me, Cosy Café is like a family not just a business; it’s not just about what we’re selling. A café is a community – I’ve seen babies grow up in front of my eyes and we feel part of people’s lives. I live in Bishopstoke and even my neighbours know me as Alex from the café!”
Kirsty and her team in Candy Room sweet shop in Eastleigh support their enticing in-store offerings with their bright and informative website and a comprehensive delivery service, ensuring that no one misses out on their favourite treats. The range of delivery options includes daily delivery within five miles of the shop, nationwide UK next working day, and click and collect.
Candy Room, which is right in the heart of the town centre, reopened in spring and has looked after the safety of its customers since then, adding a till screen and ensuring that there is lots of browsing room. Staff have been serving the pick and mix instead of leaving out scoops. The business offers a loyalty card and also keeps in touch with its customers regularly on social media; it has already achieved over 1,000 likes on TikTok.
Kirsty, who has lived in Eastleigh all her life and has run Candy Room for six years, said: “Lockdown was very difficult for small businesses and we have really been looking forward to getting back to some form of normality.
“We’re in a great location near the cinema and the bowling alley and we have lots of products which the local community seem to love, including the American range, slushes, hot nachos and fresh popcorn. We can put together tailor-made hampers for any occasion too.
Staff member Donna added: “We have some people who come into the shop every single day for their favourite sweets - it has been so lovely to be able to welcome them in again.”
Jade from BASEbody Pilates at the Central Precinct in Chandler’s Ford - which has been open again since May 17 - has certainly had a very busy few years. Since taking over the former Loft Pilates Studio in July 2017, she’s married, become a mum and moved premises to a street-facing lot; and she’s kept her business alive throughout lockdown, teaching classes to all ages from teens to over 70s. The studio is soon set to extend with the removal of an internal wall.
Basebody Pilates has been nominated as a Gem by Jennie B who said: “I really wish I'd discovered Jade and these classes sooner. I can't speak highly enough about it! I love it.”
Originally from Shirley, Jade approached Loft’s owner about a possible teaching position. When they told her they were selling up and offered her the opportunity to buy it, the-then 25 year-old took a leap into the unknown.
Jade said: “When I took over, all the teachers left but I learned on the job and, supported by class participants who responded to me as a person, I built the business up; over the years we’ve been able to develop a method which adapts to the person in front of us. It's not a one size fits all, and offers restoration, rehabilitation from injury and more dynamic workouts too.
“It has been so hard to sustain a business throughout lockdown – we had small periods of reopening and offered private sessions - but we’re here on the other side and really enjoying everyone being back in the studio.”
Mrs Potts By The River
Qualified chef Emma dreamed of opening her own place where she could prioritise caring for customers and when her mum found a suitable spot in Botley, she took the plunge and set up Mrs Potts By The River.
This quirky little café has a very unique location, offering seating by the river and in the historic Botley Mills tunnel, complete with fairy lights. Emma prepares all of the food in a hut where she also uses the space to support other businesses, including selling Hampshire honey from a few miles up at the road at no additional profit. All of the cakes and sweet treats are homemade by her, and she opens from Tuesday to Saturday between 9am and 4pm.
Emma, who lives in central Eastleigh, said: “I came to look at the premises and was up and running in a couple of weeks - if I hadn’t taken up the challenge, I would always be thinking ‘I wish I had gone for it’. Lockdown was very hard and I have worked several other jobs to keep going as I needed to pay the bills but I love it here. Customers come to chill out as it’s so peaceful with the ducks and all of the wildlife; we once had a swarm of butterflies. There’s no internet so you have to talk to people!”
Emma’s Borough Gem: “A local business I love is Katarina’s in Eastleigh. I am normally in there for breakfast as that’s the only free time I have. The cocktails are really good too!”
Dress to Go
Prom and evening wear shop Dress to Go has been operating for 17 years including 16 at Botley Mills. It’s run by Charlotte, who took over the business from her mum Karen, and she now manages an all-female team in what is one of the biggest prom shops in the country; Dress to Go stocks up to 1,000 dresses in a spacious premises which also offers a mirrored catwalk and flower wall.
Customers, who follow Dress to Go on its social media including TikTok (where it currently has over 3 million likes and 123K followers), regularly travel to the business from as far afield as Liverpool and Manchester.
Charlotte said: “We’ve been in our current location since September 2019 and we’ve now got a huge space devoted to prom dresses. When we started, proms weren’t a thing; it was cruises, balls, large events and then prom really started to expand. Now it’s 90% of our business.
“The COVID crisis was really tough and we had to issue a lot of refunds as events were cancelled. Some parents took over proms to give their children that experience but we still had months of struggle. But we knew we would be OK as we have a good reputation and a lot of people come to us because we offer one-on-one and more of an experience. We want our customers to really enjoy the appointment, have a go on the catwalk, and have some fun.”
“My mum is inspirational. She was a single mum and she started the business from scratch and then passed it on to me. The business is a monster, size-wise, but we’re really proud of it. Girls who come in often say ‘Do you own this place?’ and I am so glad that they get to see me in that role.”