4 Aug 2017
A recent story in the Hertfordshire Mercury focused on all the empty shops in the centre of Hertford. Whilst it is true that there are empty retail properties, there are good news stories when it comes to retail. Stores that aren’t necessarily confined to the big chains, hairdressers, nail bars and coffee shops that currently seem to dominate the town.
Less than two years ago, we took over the Hertford Post Office franchise, and renovated the old McDonald’s building in Maidenhead Street – a property that had been boarded up for years and was frequently quoted by locals as a sign of the decline of the high street in Hertford.
The enterprise has become a success story in its own right. The outlet is thriving and the UOE Store’s opening hours have enabled us to keep the Hertford Post Office open for longer hours, including on Sundays, which has had tremendous knock-on benefits for the community.
Renovating the old McDonald’s building
More than just a Post Office in Hertford
The reason for opening the Post Office and UOE Store in Hertford wasn’t confined to helping regenerate the high street; it was also part of an ambitious plan to support the local entrepreneurial community.
In 2016, the first floor of the shop was launched as The UOE Hub, a co-working office space where freelancers, ‘solopreneurs’ and small businesses now have affordable office space in the centre of Hertford. People who work alone at home often complain of a lack of motivation and miss the company of colleagues, which is why co-working spaces are becoming more and more popular, as more and more people take the plunge and set up their own business.
Elliot Jacobs, MD of UOE, feels that The Hub, the Post Office and UOE Store are a good complementary mix. He said: “Launching The Hub was part of our community commitment on opening the Post Office. One of our values is being the ‘Hub of the Community’ and we identified that many local small businesses didn’t have a location in central Hertford they could work in at a time that suited them and The Hub is open 24/7 for members. This gives local entrepreneurs a convenient base where they can connect, collaborate and get work done.
“The Hub was created to fill that gap. Its goal is not to make a profit, but to cover overheads and continuously reinvest any profit in the space in order to make things better for entrepreneurs. That’s why we can offer reduced memberships to local charities and not-for-profit organisations. As The Hub is for the good of small businesses, we have recently invested in the latest networking technology and added extra office spaces because that is what people have told us they need. In fact, The Hub is buzzing; it has dozens of members and is already covering its overheads.”