Belfast Telegraph

The wheels of change spinning for Northern Ireland fabric shop

By Margaret Canning

One of Northern Ireland's most familiar home-grown retailers is reopening in new premises.

The Spinning Wheel is shifting from Donegall Square West to nearby Fountain Street.

It will occupy the premises formerly used by fancy goods retailer Hanna & Browne, which went into administration three years ago.

The family-owned fabric and curtains shop has been in Donegall Square West for nearly 40 years.

Now its former home will be taken over by bakery chain Greggs.

Spinning Wheel managing director Rory Curran - whose father Harold founded the business - said: "We've been there for around 36 years and we just feel it's time for a change.

"On Donegall Square, we just seem to be a wee bit on the periphery of the shopping area, so we're happy with our move down to that area of Fountain Street because it's closer to other big shops which draw footfall.

"Yes, there's footfall at Donegall Square but it's not necessarily shopping footfall."

Customers could expect more of the same in Fountain Street.

"We'll just continue our focus on dress fabrics and craft fabrics, though we have diversified into blinds, and have a new van for home consultancy and free measuring."

His father Harold founded the business in Downpatrick 40 years ago, and moved it into Belfast four years later. "My father said that it was different back then, and all you had to do was open. Belfast was a very different place then, but it's still a wonderful retail city," said Rory.

He said the city's retail mix of independents and multi-nationals worked well. And he said he was intrigued about returning to his old shop when it becomes a Greggs. "I'll look forward to having a coffee in it," he added.

The Scottish Provident building that has housed the Spinning Wheel and other businesses, as well as offices, is owned by bookmaking family the McLeans.

It's also home to the Apartment bar and restaurant, and high-end cafe Patisserie Valerie.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Trade Association (NIIRTA), welcomed the shop's move.

"This is a nice bit of good news, and it's pleasing to see that the business is in a position to adapt," he said.

"Obviously they are a well-established business and I'm very happy that the owners are breathing new life into it."

He said the arrival of a new business to Fountain Street was good news for its other retailers - which include food shop and deli Sawers.

"It's almost becoming a niche area now for independent retailers, with places like Sawers doing so well," he said.

"In fact, you could develop it into a little Carnaby Street with many different types of independents."

New cafe the Permit Room has also opened in Fountain Street. It's run by Niall David and Marty Murphy, the team behind restaurant Howard Street.

Belfast Telegraph