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Seaside town thriving due to long term business investment

Wayne, Kallista and Shelby Redmond at the new Bellyboos headquarters in Gorleston High Street.An award-winning ice cream parlour and sweet shop is making a major investment in one of Norfolk’s seaside towns.

Bellyboos is helping Gorleston to experience a rebirth, thanks to the addition of new shops, restaurants and improvements to existing businesses scattered from the shopping area to the seafront.

The shop and cafe, owned by Wayne and Suzanne Redmond, has made the move from its corner shop property in the High Street to a new flagship store - the transformed and formally redundant HSBC bank building just a stone’s throw away.

The new premises is a 65-cover café and include a mother and baby room with toys and a chalk board, and upstairs function room.

It redeems many of its original features and pays homage to the old bank vault.

Alongside the popular milkshakes and cakes, the ice cream flavours have increased to 26 different varieties and the couple plan to extend their menu to include sandwiches and paninis.

There is also disabled access, toilets, baby change facilities and highchairs.

Suzanne said Gorleston was the only place they wanted to open a business.
“My nan was born in Southwold and we had been up here to Gorleston on holiday. We moved from London 17 years ago and compared with that it was so homely, safe and welcoming. There was no question of our investment in Gorleston. Something must be happening here as we keep seeing lots of businesses opening and expanding, which is great for the community. We are BID levy payers and I think its support with bringing people into the town by organising events and providing marketing, has helped highlight the positive aspects of the borough as a whole.”

Bellyboo is the nickname of the couple’s youngest daughter Isabella and inspired the couple to name the business after her.

And family is a big part of the operation. The couple are proud parents to seven children, with daughters Shelby, 25, and Kallista, 19, both taking management roles in the business.

Previously Suzanne was a cashier at Morrisons in Gorleston and Wayne was a builder - but there was always a dream to change directions.

Suzanne said: “I always wanted to own a sweetie shop and while I was walking to work one day I noticed an empty building that used to be a barbers shop on Gorleston High Street. We looked into it, sold some shares and took the plunge. We opened in January 2014 and during the first three months it was completely mad, sweets of all varieties were flying off the shelves. We found it difficult to keep up with demand. At first we were doing sweetie carts for weddings and parties, but after it levelled out we realised we needed to diversify and we started selling ice cream and basic milkshakes. As the business soared, so was the need to expand, and a move was made across the road in January 2016 to the corner premises to allow for a sit-in service, incorporating tea, coffee and cakes."

“We outgrew our first store and now we have outgrown our second,” said Wayne. “I still struggle to get my head around the success of it. To start with we were overwhelmed by it, but now we deal with the amount of footfall in a very controlled way. It has been a massive learning curve.”

The company’s Facebook page has more than 16,000 likes, which includes visitors from as far-flung as America, The Philippines and Australia.

Wayne said: “Our daughter Kallista is very creative and is responsible for many of our ice cream and sweet varieties. Our most popular Facebook hit reached 188,000 people.

“Although in the new store there will be a lot more space, it is definitely cosier. Its sympathetic to the character of the building, with a spacious kitchen and open plan seating. We would like to have the rooftop terrace to the rear of the building, open for August. We hope now to build a franchise of Bellyboos, with Gorleston as our flagship store.”

Gorleston has been deemed the place to be by other businesses, who have chosen to make a significant investment in the town.
These include the William Adams public house operated by Wetherspoons and the Olive Garden Restaurant, which located from Regent Road, in Great Yarmouth, to Gorleston High Street.

Junx Clothing, currently in Great Yarmouth’s Victoria Arcade, will move into the previous Bellyboos premises.

The Shed, situated on Gorleston seafront, is in the process of undergoing two phases of building work, which will see a new preparation and storage area open next door. Later a new bar, lounge area and toilet facilities will be completed.
Martin Edwards, owner said: “Gorleston is a naturally lovely area anyway and we are really lucky to be by the beach as we attract lots of families. I think the more you diversify and add to facilities in terms of investment, the more people engage.”

Gareth Brown, chairman of the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area (GYTABIA) said he was delighted to hear about further investment in the town.

“We have experienced a real upturn in Gorleston over recent months with a number of businesses and individuals investing a great deal of money into the town, which has led to an influx of tourists and visitors.

“Gorleston has really come into its own as it has got so much to offer. We have a beautiful seafront with complimentary attractions and restaurants, and then a very attractive shopping precinct with new shops and eating establishments opening frequently.

“The addition of the Great Yarmouth Air Show, which saw 180,000 flock to the area, has just raised the profile even further.”

Bellyboos, which won Best New Business at last year’s Spirit of Enterprise Awards, in Great Yarmouth, was officially opened on Saturday by Wally Webb from BBC Radio Norfolk.