England’s ‘smallest toy shop’ helps Thrapston high street thrive

Birthday celebration: Thrapston: Jollys Toy Shop celebrating 5 years in business  Owner Charlotte Croser   Tuesday May 5th 2018 NNL-180605-193432009
Birthday celebration: Thrapston: Jollys Toy Shop celebrating 5 years in business Owner Charlotte Croser Tuesday May 5th 2018 NNL-180605-193432009

A magical emporium packed to the rafters with all the toys any childhood heart could desire has aided the revival of a traditional town high street.

Jollys Toys, which is thought to be the smallest toy shop in the country, turned five this month and its owner has been among a group of independent traders determined to maintain Thrapston’s status as a treasured gem in a sea of towns where shops are boarded up and residents spend their time shopping in remote locations on the fringes of bigger towns.

Farmers Market: Thrapston: Farmers' Market in town centre/high st''Tuesday May 5th 2018 NNL-180605-193204009

Farmers Market: Thrapston: Farmers' Market in town centre/high st''Tuesday May 5th 2018 NNL-180605-193204009

Charlotte Croser, 40, herself a shopkeeper’s daughter opened Jollys in 2013 in a quaint building after giving up her high-flying London life.

While her early experience working in the corporate world of business to business PR, Charlotte had always harboured dreams of opening her own shop.

When her daughter went to school five years ago, Charlotte decided that Thrapston was the ideal venue for her first solo retail venture. She said: “My parents were booksellers so I grew up in a retail environment. I love what I do, I’m totally passionate about it.

“I was a bit nervous but I had lots of contacts from my time in London. The space is small so I’ve had to be quite creative with it.

Farmers Market: Thrapston: Farmers' Market in town centre/high st''Tuesday May 5th 2018 NNL-180605-193044009

Farmers Market: Thrapston: Farmers' Market in town centre/high st''Tuesday May 5th 2018 NNL-180605-193044009

“I knew Thrapston was the ideal location because there are a lot of young families here.”

Within six months of opening the shop, Charlotte began meeting with other local shopkeepers and business owners to come up with ideas to boost the high street in the face of mounting competition from out-of-town retail parks.

Charlotte and three other shop owners came up with the idea of starting a regular event to popularise Thrapston on Saturdays. The monthly farmer’s market emerged from their plan, and the group decided to run it themselves.

They each put in £100 and began the event in September 2014.

Farmers Market: Thrapston: Farmers' Market in town centre/high st  NNL-180605-193018009

Farmers Market: Thrapston: Farmers' Market in town centre/high st NNL-180605-193018009

It has run every first Saturday of the month ever since, and draws crowds into the town centre which creates passing trade for other businesses.

Charlotte said: “It raises footfall and brings people into Thrapston. We did lots of research before starting it and decided to run it as a voluntary group.

“We were quickly able to recoup our small investment and it’s grown from there.

“It’s really brought the community together.”

Other businesses have also arrived in Thrapston in recent years, showing that small is sometimes better when it comes to retail.

Charlotte added: “We can give a really personal service. We try to stock things that are difficult to find elsewhere and we do birthday wishlists for local children.

“Thrapston really is thriving. We’ve got lots of destination shops and there are so many things on offer that aren’t available elsewhere.”