Prince St, Grafton
Prince St, Grafton Caitlan Charles

Shop local, stay alive

IT IS a slow process, but the Grafton CBD is starting to come alive with new shops opening in Prince St.

Two years ago the main street was a sorry sight, with The Daily Examiner reporting nine empty shop fronts in a single block.

But there has been a new lease on life for the historic precinct with more and more new businesses opening.

The most recent addition to the mix is Deosa Wholefoods, now open in the old Clarence ShoeX store.

It has been a goal of Grafton Chamber of Commerce to bring more businesses back into the area to ensure a rich future for the local economy, especially once the new Pacific Highway bypasses Grafton.

"It's good to see some empty shops being taken up again,” chamber president Justin James said.

Mr James said the chamber has worked closely with Ford and Dougherty Property commercial manager Natasha Watkinson to bring new businesses into the street.

"We've helped her where we could and it's been amazing,” he said.

"There are so many benefits. If we've got more shops it will attract more people (to Grafton).”

Clarence Valley Council's Vibrant Spaces pilot plan, which is also aimed at attracting people to the main street, started in October.

Mr James said while some shops were empty, a lot of those are leased.

"Obviously the businesses can't stay (if no one supports them), so shop local where you can,” he said.

"Not everything can be bought locally, but wherever I can, I shop local.

"We need to make it a point that we support these new shops. Tourists come and go, but the locals are here to stay.”

Ms Watkinson said Ford and Dougherty was working on a number of ways to help promote Prince St, including short-term leases to bring people in contact with available spaces.

"The biggest thing we've done is talk to our landlords and getting them to be agreeable to doing a good deal that is beneficial to both them and their tenant in the long term,” Ms Watkinson said.

"That way, we can put someone in a shop, and if they are successful they stay there.

"We've also talked to them about how to present their vacant spaces so they are more attractive to securing a tenant.”

Ms Watkinson said the Vibrant Spaces plan will be good for all tenants.

"It will improve the street and then attracting tenants becomes easier because it's a vibrant, busy, nice, eclectic sort of a space,” she said.

Ms Watkinson said they had a few short-term goals for the shops already there, but they hope to build on that in the future.

"Once the bridge changes and the Pacific Highway changes, and Prince St comes back to being a locally controlled road, we will continue to build on that and make it more of a community space,” she said.