AS Newcastle businesses struggle with a downturn in trade from the light rail work, activity in the historic City Arcade is on the up.
Hunter-raised Sally Doe has relocated her Northcote, Melbourne, business Ike And Fly to the arcade and signed a two-year lease at her shopfront near the Hunter Street entrance of the arcade, which runs through to Newcomen Street.
The arcade is understood to the be city’s first shopping arcade and was once the site of the Newcastle Corporation Baths or city baths.
Ms Doe is a former costume maker with the Australian Opera who has her own clothing brand and also stocks local brands and vintage garments in the narrow shop space, which also includes Deco glass cabinets.
“The shop I had in Melbourne was a big space with a collective and I wanted something smaller and more manageable,” says Ms Doe, who went to Newcastle High and relocated to the Hunter to be closer to family.
Other businesses trading in the arcade include cafe The Natural Kitchen, the tailor Al Em Stitches, Room Six Barber, leathermaker and retailer CCY Studio, Barbara Nanshe Studio with Urban Smith jewellery and recycled fashion boutique Ritzy Rose.
Ritzy Rose owner Katrina Wright, who has run her store for seven years, said trade in the CBD was tough and “a wave that you have to ride”.
“You can blame [poor trade] on a lot of things, including the growth of online, but people are not being encouraged to come into town,” she said. “My regulars have saved me.”
Business improvement association Newcastle Now said a small number of businesses had approached it access its new program offering 12 hours’ of free consultation with a business adviser, a business health check and access to specialist accounting and financial advice.
Its executive manager Richard Christian said most businesses had been impacted – some significantly – by the light rail construction.
“It’s challenging on a number of fronts but we are doing as much as we can to help businesses get through this period so they can focus on a positive future,” he said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.