Cavendish House in Cheltenham reopens — with a food court coming soon

Nearly 30 pop-up stalls are set up and open for business, as Cavendish House in Cheltenham reopens its doors to the public after six weeks of closure — with a food court on its way soon.

By Sarah Kent  |  Published

A much-anticipated reopening for Cheltenham town centre after its shock closure in April 2024, after 201 years of trading, the iconic department store Cavendish House has reopened its doors and is bustling with shoppers.

Just over six weeks since the former House of Fraser store emptied its stock, turned off its lights and locked its doors for what Gloucestershire residents thought would be the last time, Cavendish House is now full of people and buzzing with energy as nearly 30 pop up traders are set up and open for business.

Taking the form of an indoor market hall, 27 independent businesses now fill the space with their pop-up stalls, offering everything from clothing, plants, cakes, yarn, homeware and much more, all under one roof.

Businesses include wool shop, String; cafe, Once Upon a Tea Room; plant retailer, Plant Amamita; handmade hats from Shelley Made This; florist, Bramble and Bloom; poster and print store, Design Haven; coffee retailer, Brink Coffee; menswear outdoor specialist, Strong Boy Clothing; and much more. 

Vicki Brown, owner of yarn and craft store, String, is set up on the old Benefit makeup stand. She said: 'I’m very excited to be here and I'm really looking forward to seeing what it's like to be on the high street and in a busier location, and seeing how that will change my business and give me more exposure.'

'It's been a busy week because we only got in last Monday, but it's come together really nicely and I've had lots of support from friends; and the other stall holders have been amazing as well — everybody is just looking out for each other and helping out.'

Sophie and Becky from Once Upon a Tea Room are set up on one of the old skincare stands in the centre of the ground floor and are selling cakes and scones. They commented: 'We're running our stand as if it's a market stall — we do a lot of food festivals and markets and thought that would be the best route to take.

'It's nice to support other people too and the more people that come in and support the traders, the more of a hub it is. And that's really important — to have a community. Often in business, especially independents, we've only really got social media to contact each other, but when you're here, it's nice to put a face to a name.

'We've got quite a big social media following but, because the cafe is only open at weekends as we do wholesale during the week, people walking past don't always have a chance to visit; so to be at this end of town, and on weekdays, is quite handy.'

Gloucestershire businessman, Harry Khan of AB Properties, who took on the lease of the building and wants to bring it back to life for the community, said: 'We've got 24 businesses in today and three more are setting up in the next couple of days, ready to open later this week or early next week.'

Harry reveals that he has had a long-term vision for years to open an indoor market space in Gloucestershire: 'It's something we wanted to do for a long time and then this building came up. And now it's looking nice — it's how we wanted it to be — and the traders are happy; that's the main thing. They're getting an opportunity to be on the high street.

'We've taken on the lease for a whole year with a view to extending for a second and third year. We just want to make sure it's successful before we commit to anything too long, because it's quite a big responsibility.'

Harry reports that he's heard from retailers on the Promenade and Regent Street that footfall has fallen significantly since Cavendish House closed in April: 'We've got 27 traders in here, which is pretty much a high street, isn't it? So hopefully with this opening up again, that footfall will go back up and it will benefit the rest of the shops on the street, too.'

Excitingly, Harry also reveals that a food court is being fitted out in the old Caffe Nero space and will soon be serving pizza, coffee, milkshakes and more from four different suppliers. 

Harry continued: 'We're at 70 percent occupancy with 30 per cent more space to rent out — I've got a lot of inquiries to go back to this week.' 

He's also hoping that the second floor of the building will eventually be used as a performing arts space offering workshops and is currently in negotiations with interested parties.

To quote one shopper visiting Cavendish House this morning: 'It's amazing in here — I hope it stays and I hope it gets bigger.'

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