Meet two Hull businesswomen branching out at Paragon Arcade

Two Hull businesswomen are branching out with their own independent ventures in the city centre’s Paragon Arcade.

Ellen Crabtree, who works as a barmaid to supplement her work making babywear, has made the move from selling online to bricks and mortar with her store, Belle and Benjamin.

And Polly Langham, who has worked at TONI&GUY hairdressing salons in Hull, London and Sydney, has decided to go solo with her own salon, called Milk.

Ellen said she was inspired to open her own store after noticing parents increasingly shunning traditional colours and styles when dressing their children.

She said: “I found that there’s been a move away from the stereotypical ‘pink for a girl, blue for a boy’. Now people are looking to dress their children in fun, bold prints as opposed to saying these are girls’ clothes, these are boys’ clothes. People are a lot more fluid in how they dress their children now.

Ellen Crabtree has opened Belle and Benjamin in Paragon Arcade.

“I enjoy making things and seeing the happiness that people get from what I make. With social media, people tag me in pictures of their children and babies and it’s really nice to see that something you put so much effort into then becomes a product that people use and enjoy.

“I’d been toying with the idea of opening a shop for a while. Being in the arcade there is such a sense of community, especially in Paragon Arcade with the late-night openings on the first Saturday of every month. I have always been fond of the Hull scene and when a space became available here I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Polly said she Hull was the ‘perfect location’ to start a business.

She said: “I live in Hull with my husband and daughter and was commuting to London when I worked there. But I love Hull. I love that it’s a big city with a local feel and Paragon Arcade exemplifies that. And it’s not expensive.

Ellen and Polly Langham outside their stores.

“I heard about the arcade and that there were units available. After spending some time down here, I thought that it was the perfect location to start an independent business. I liked that it was all independent local businesses working together to promote both the city and their businesses. For a small new business, this seemed like the perfect location because it’s such a supportive environment.

“It felt nice to be part of something that was up and coming, especially in the city centre that hasn’t always felt like a positive place, but now that seems to be changing.”

The arcade is now close to full occupancy after a major overhaul by owners Allenby Commercial.

The Hull developer bought Paragon Arcade, which was built in 1891 by Sir Alfred Gelder, in 2017 and has maintained a Victorian look during its refurbishment to improved ground floor units and bring neglected first-floor space back into use.

Tenants such as Flower Corner, Treat Box traditional sweets, Segal’s antique jewellery, P J Hutchinson Barbers and Silver Springs vintage clothing have been joined by Two Gingers Coffee House, Marla’s Deli, White Rabbit Chocolatiers and 80 Days Bier Markt.

Georgia Allenby, design and marketing manager at Allenby Commercial, said:“It’s fantastic that Polly and Ellen – two people who could have taken their business ideas anywhere – have decided to stay in Hull and add to the richness of our city centre because they can see the potential for success from being part of the creative offering at Paragon Arcade.

“As soon as we acquired Paragon Arcade, we embarked on a programme of improvements including a major renovation scheme and seven-days-a-week opening. We’re only halfway through the renovation and the space is nearly full. As a local company, we are committed to adding to the appeal of Hull city centre, supporting businesses from the city, encouraging people from Hull to live and work here and people from outside to visit here.”