At a recent open day, Naomi Ridley (pictured centre), the Chief Executive of social enterprise, Hastings Furniture Service, introduced plans for rebuilding their Bexhill site. HFS provides a service collecting second-hand furniture and electrical items, recycling them for resale.
A much needed community service, HFS is a growing charity and an FSB member, offering discounts to people on benefits, running craft workshops and employing staff and volunteers.
Established in 1988, the first HFS store opened in Hastings, in the Robert Tressell Workshops. It later moved to a former glassworks in Dorset Place. Naomi joined in 2002 and the premises were extended and renovated in 2006 with the store still operational today.
The Bexhill store, which occupies the old Renault garage site on London Road, was acquired in 2008. “The buildings weren’t in great condition but the site had the space we needed,” said Naomi, “and now we are in a position to consider changing things.” The plan is to rebuild a three-story building to the front of the site with home furniture on the first two floors and office furniture on the third.
Naomi wants to convert the large warehousing to the back into three floors of business premises with parking spaces, for start-up and growing firms. “Our plans are for flexible spaces that can accommodate, for instance, artisan workshops, office space or light workshops and can adapt as businesses grow.”
Naomi’s plans also open up opportunities for self-employed people who may want to simply rent a desk. “With the offer of a rolling monthly contract, we could also accommodate those who need to scale up temporarily, for instance, for seasonal work.” added Naomi.
The key to Naomi’s ambitious plans for the Bexhill HFS site is finance. The Coastal Communities Team are supportive and so are the business community. “Purpose built and affordable business premises are in great need in the area,” said Nicolae Trofin (also pictured), the local Chairman of FSB, “and it is great to see one of our members wanting to do something about it with such entrepreneurial flair.” The next steps to take the project forward are to secure planning permission and for the HFS team to prepare funding bids to demonstrate how the redevelopment will benefit business and the community.