PORTRAITS OF THE UNDERBANKS

a place that makes itself

ELIZABETH – THE NORAH STORE

Let me just move the mannequin – we call her Frieda. In this one dress we put her in, her boob kept popping out, so we called her Frieda Nipple! 

We’ve been here since last August, actually we just reopened after refurbishment. This used to be a vape shop, with that horrible fluorescent lighting, so we’ve put new in.

In March we have another company launching upstairs, Still Life Story, selling furniture and interiors. I’ve got Norah Studios on the top floor too, I’ve rented it to six artists, all pretty local. There’s definitely a demand for affordable studio space, and it’s perfect up there, all beams and high ceilings. It means they get to meet other artists too, it makes it more of a community. 

We put a lot of events on – launch parties with discounts, clothes swaps, we’ve done a print fair before. I get guest artists to do the window displays. My friend Ruby did the Christmas one with these massive knitted gloves, really nice.

I grew up in Stretford, in Manchester, but my grandparents live around Stockport, so I knew the area quite well before I got the shop. I’ve done business online and through pop-ups before, but I wanted a physical space. I saw some of the other independents on Instagram, so I came to see the empty units and chatted with the shopkeepers, they’re lovely. We get so much support from the locals as well. The best part is getting to meet people, talk to them. I like having a physical shop that I can curate, like I’m hosting, and it means the customers can try the clothes on.

The Underbanks is a unique area. The good and bad parts are the same, really – there’s a lot of young business owners because the units were cheap, but they were cheap because they were derelict – it’s getting better though. Stockport’s a great historic area, with the charm of older cities, like Chester, we just have to make sure we get the support to make it even better. 

In the future, I’d love the Underbanks to be thriving, with every shop unit filled. A lot of people compare it to the Northern Quarter, but I see it more like Burton Road, in West Didsbury. Hopefully, it’ll be really successful in a few years, with a community of shopkeepers that love the area – people doing really well, we don’t want them to move away! 

thenorahstore.com

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