Trinity House, Axminster

Axminster Property bought Axminster’s anchor store after its closure as a department store and at point when the town faced a big drop in footfall.

In a matter of months its team transformed a tired building into a high quality home for a series of small, independent, local businesses.

The building now exudes quality and the businesses within are thriving, helping the wider Axminster trading community turn an important economic corner.

The closure of Trinity House as a department store in November 2019 represented a huge blow to Axminster’s town centre. It had been Axminster’s anchor store for many years and its demise came at a time when the town was on its economic knees after the loss 400 jobs in the famous carpet industry. Those in the know feared for the future of the town, not least the other small independent traders who had relied heavily on footfall from Trinity House.

Passionate about the Axe Valley and Axminster in particular, Axminster Property’s managing director, Ian Styles, decided he could not stand by and allow the loss of such a fundamental business to further undermine the local economy. The property was not one that particularly fitted the portfolio his company ran for its pension and other investors, but he knew he had to buy it … and did so in early 2020.

In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, Axminster Property’s multi-disciplined craft team formed a work ‘bubble’ to allow them to launch into the substantial renovation project needed to bring a down-at-heels building back to life. Ian Styles himself returned to his carpentry origins to lead the group that gutted parts of the building, stripping large areas back to the fabric. The roof was extensively repaired, original attractive windows restored or replaced and gutters cleared or installed. The electrics were upgraded and insulation brought up to latest standards.

The vision was to populate the building with independent local businesses who would be in Axminster for the long term. As word spread of what was planned, Louise Wall quickly committed to moving her rebranded Lou La Belle boutique to unit 1 and opened there in June. Soon after came the Crafty Hobbit taking unit 2. The build team’s attention then switched to the first floor, which it converted into a new home for the Community Waffle House, a community interest company that sells Belgian waffles and drinks but also dispenses kindness through its vital social role. Included in the mix is Waffle Work (offering space to connect up over coffee plus computer repair) and Waffle Play (for Mums and young children).

In November 2021, the long standing Archway Bookshop become the fourth tenant to take its place in the Trinity House jigsaw. It joined the Lou La Belle boutique,The Crafty Hobbit crafts and gifts shop and The Community Waffle House. See separate case studies for each tenants. That leaves just the extensive cellars with development potential.

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