North East Connected

Grandson’s premature birth inspires retired teacher’s new business

A shop run by a retired maths teacher – who was inspired by the premature birth of her grandson – is the latest business to open in Northallerton’s Central Arcade.

All of the arcade’s units are now occupied, with Poppit’s Baby Boutique joining Brown’s Beds and the Central Stop Cafe who moved there earlier this year.

“This is great news and, although it’s been a difficult year in retail, this shows that it’s not all doom and gloom,” said Richard Wilson, senior associate partner at Dodds Brown, the commercial property agency which acts for the arcade’s owner Barkers (Northallerton).

Ellen Leafe’s grandson Arthur – now a healthy one-year-old – was born seven weeks early. “We had everything for a new baby being born, but we didn’t anything for a baby born prematurely and there wasn’t anything in the shops for a baby that size,” she said.

Ellen, who taught at the Wyvern Academy in Darlington, started an online business selling baby clothes, began running a market stall in Northallerton in April and was sufficiently encouraged to open a shop.

“I was looking for a change of direction and it’s all happened very quickly. I said when I wanted to be in the shop – and I was in.  Everybody’s been so helpful,” she said.

Poppit’s Baby Boutique’s range starts with outfits for babies weighing as little as 3lbs and finishes with clothes for 10-year-olds.

Although the business is also still online, Ellen thinks it is important for customers to be able to see and feel the quality of her clothes.  She also enjoys their interaction. “Being a teacher you’re with people all day. I would miss that,” she said. 

Her neighbour in Central Arcade – Sarah Johnson, the owner of the Central Stop Cafe – is at the opposite end of her career. But the 24-year-old from Northallerton has years of experience of working in cafes. “When I saw that this was available I knew the potential it had, so just went for it,” she said.

After just six months the Central Stop Cafe already has many regular customers, attracted by Sarah’s fresh food, her prices and a promise to re-decorate every six months. “Nobody likes the smell of staleness,” she said.

Like Sarah, 23-year-old Anthony Brown – of Brown’s Beds – had also prepared well for his first business. He worked with his dad who has a company supplying beds and bedding to hotels throughout the UK.

“All my beds are made in Yorkshire and sold in Yorkshire, with free delivery and free set up and I charge just £10 to take away the old bed,” he said. “I want to give a good service so people get to know me and recommend me.”

Central Arcade was an ideal location, said Anthony, and – in his business – a shop will always be necessary for customers to test a mattress for comfort.

The three new businesses join Central Arcade’s other tenants: Hays Travel, Ladbrokes, Jeanette’s hair and beauty salon, barber Keith Easton, The Bridal Lounge and Rockbox Music.

Although the Central Arcade is now full, there are other opportunities for businesses in the nearby Barkers Arcade. Details are available from Richard Wilson of Dodds Brown on 01642 244130 or via


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