The Montpellier Courtyard – the destination for independents

Friday July 24, 2020

The Montpellier Courtyard is a specialty shopping centre in the middle of Montpellier Cheltenham. Since lockdown, businesses are planning to and have moved into the shopping destination, creating a new kind of buzz about the place.

The Courtyard is full of an eclectic collection of independent business varying from retailers to restaurants, home renovation and design services to hairdressers and even a tattoo studio.

Cheltenham BID’s Maria Allebone talked to the businesses of The Courtyard to get their opinions on how they feel about the shopping destination and how important they think independents are to a town centre.

A creative new patisserie called Edible Art, specialising in beautiful, colourful and unique pastries and cakes is due to open in The Courtyard on August 1. Damien Wager, owner of the new Courtyard business began his pastry career just four years ago, but he is already known for his wonderful pastry and cake creations, with nearly 70,000 followers on Instagram. Find examples of his work via his Instagram @edibleartpatisserie. Another new food business called Picknix will also be moving in to a first-floor unit in the next couple of weeks.

Above the expected patisserie is Silks Cheltenham – ‘an unrivalled and exclusive choice of mother of the bride holiday, and occasion wear collections as well as stylish everyday wear…’

Silks of Cheltenham offer an immediate feel of luxury, elegance, and quality. They mix sophistication and innovative design with high quality fabric and cuts.

Kerry Taylor, owner of Silks Cheltenham, said: “I for one love the fact that Silks is situated in The Montpellier Courtyard as there is nothing else like it in Cheltenham. It is unique and looks and feels like you are somewhere abroad. The Courtyard offers something a bit different with the variety of Independent businesses.”

Silks Cheltenham

New business Gallimore’s Kitchen, situated on the ground floor of the Montpellier shopping destination, opened just before lockdown but had to close because of the pandemic.  Lee Gallimore, chef owner said: “It is crucial to have a good level of independent businesses together, away from the main line of High Street chains. We are very lucky with our place in Montpellier and to have a beautiful outside courtyard area for our customers to enjoy”.

Rupert, chef and Lee Gallimore, chef owner of Gallimore’s Kitchen

Maria then spoke with Gemma Kay and Becky Hannis, co-owners of independent hairdressers Beau Amis. Gemma and Becky have been best friends since they were thirteen years of age and worked in big corporate salons for years. They both had the same dream of one day opening their own salon. It was eight years ago that they decided to take the leap and opened Beau Amis in The Montpellier Courtyard. They wanted to offer a personal experience from start to finish, where all clients would feel comfortable and safe.

It was the beauty of The Courtyard that appealed to the two hairdressers. Becky said: “The rent is more affordable than High Street and there is a sense of community.”

They both agreed that there needed to be little pockets of hustle and bustle away from the town centre to entice customers into other areas of the town.

Becky also said: “It is so important to be independent and offer something a little more bespoke, now more than ever. Beau Amis offers something personal and new.”

Gemma mentioned that: “Lockdown has made people realise how hard it is to run an independent business. Our business is personal, so customers know how safe and clean it is, and the changes we have made so they feel as comfortable as possible. Both of us have made the best out of a bad situation”.

Gemma Kay and Becky Hannis, owners of Beau Amis

au Panache, an independent family run boutique specialising in gift ware and home décor sits near enough adjacent to Beau Amis.

Taylore Greene, owner of au Panache, said: “The businesses that rent in The Courtyard are independent, unique and offer a good service. We offer a personal shopping experience, including gift wrapping. People want to see and feel the products before they buy them.”

The Courtyard is in a residential area and most of Taylore’s clientele live locally and walk to the store regularly. Parking is much easier to find in Montpellier compared to the High Street. Montpellier has everything you need for a full shopping experience – a pharmacy, restaurants, retailers, grocery shops and even a tattoo studio.

au Panache

Both L’una Design and Kitchens by L’una are businesses owned by husband and wife business partners, Dustin and Michelle Wise. They offer the complete package of home interior design – high-class personal service right the way through from planning, project management, source and supply, installation to lighting the candles on your dining room table, the finishing touches. Both Dustin and Michelle are incredibly passionate about what they do, and it shows through the personal experiences they offer.

Dustin said: “The Courtyard’s appeal to businesses is its boutique nature, it is a follow-on from Montpellier’s ethos of independence. Although The Courtyard has been around for thirty years, there has been an increase in new businesses moving in. We have been here for eight years and there has been four new businesses move in the last few years and five if you count the patisserie that is about to open downstairs.”

The couple say that The Courtyard is a place for discovery, full of like-minded determined business owners with a positive way of thinking. All pro-active in the way they run their trades. Areas like The Montpellier Courtyard make the town more interesting. The way the High Street is going there could be a shift to retail and residential and Montpellier have been doing that for years.

Michelle said: “There is always such an eclectic group of positive businesses here which creates a lovely vibe about the place.”

The couple hope that people remember their chain of thought through lockdown and stick with supporting local and independent businesses, remember who stayed open and was there for the people when times were hard. Dustin and Michelle have started a ‘support local business’ campaign across their social media channels to help keep the memento going, thanking the people who supported their business and other independents.

Kitchens by L’una studio

Deano Jouni, owner of TokyoTattoo Studios said: “Montpellier personifies Cheltenham and The Courtyard is the heart of the area. For myself, I wanted to run a business in a place that was different, there are lots of preconceived ideas of where a tattoo studio should be, and I like to go against the grain. I wanted to create something that surpassed anyone’s expectation. When you come into the studio you don’t expect it to look the way it does, you don’t expect it to be here in such a beautiful surrounding. Most studios are not in prime areas of the town whereas mine is.”

TokyoTattoo Studios, found on the first floor of The Courtyard shopping destination, is known for its ultra-hygiene, and creating an experience like no other.

When Deano found out he could reopen his tattoo studio they already had three- or four-months’ worth of bookings that they had to reschedule, as well as new appointments – making them booked up right up until November.

The pandemic has shown how well the business was already set-up and Deano has not had to make any changes. Everything was already contactless, and taps were all automatic along with the Dyson hand dryers. Hand sanitisers, hygiene stations and alcohol gel were already in place. The interior of the building (designed by Deano) exists in zones. As you step in to the business, you walk into a controlled environment; when a customer enters the business, they do not enter straight into the studio, there are panes of glass that separate each section and within the tattoo studio itself there is an air filtration/extraction system – TokyoTattoo Studios has been COVID-secure for seven years. The only thing Deano had to put in place was the perspex screen across his reception desk.

Deano worked with a lot of local brands and businesses within The Courtyard last year during his Tokyo Fest, he said: “If these businesses are successful it will then in turn mean that we are successful. That is where a lot of the bigger brands fall down, they are not interested in collaborating or working with independents and I think that is why The Courtyard works.”

TokyoTatto Studios

Independent barbers BiberianGray, owned by Steve Gray, Dee Biberian and their French bulldog Gizmo, moved into the ground floor of The Courtyard just after lockdown.

Steve Gray explains the business as clean, stylish with a mixture of  modern and old school feel, minimalistic but with the focus being on ‘luxury’ and a safe space. The barbers even have a DJ every Saturday for all to enjoy! Both owners (especially Dee as a musician), wanted to focus the business around music as it brings people together.

Dee grew up in Cheltenham and when he was younger The Courtyard was the spot for shopping. Where L’una Design is now used to be a children’s wooden toy store called ‘Once a Tree’ and Dee’s dad used to take him there every Christmas when he was a boy. He left town for a while and when he came back, he saw the unit up for rent in The Courtyard and instantly knew where to start his business.

Dee said: “It is great to have a shopping destination like The Courtyard in Cheltenham as independents cannot compete with High Street brands, we all help each other out here. Some independents have struggled and lost their businesses through lockdown whereas the big boys are still going, so I hope now that people feel more encouraged to come into the smaller businesses”.

Dee Biberian and Steve Gray – owners of BiberianGray

Other businesses include Bang and Olufsen and Caroline Charles.

If The Courtyard was situated in the town centre it would have a completely different feel. The Courtyard belongs in the beauty of Montpellier.

Come and visit all the charming business owners and businesses of The Montpellier Courtyard.

The Montpellier Cortyard