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Fenland shop becomes home to arts and crafts in bid to beat pandemic

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A Fenland business which faced closure with the arrival of the pandemic is taking on new life and opening its doors with a fresh start and community backing.

Uptown Fun had supplied everything anyone needed for parties - and then coronavirus put an end to all group celebrations overnight and the doors to the Upwell business closed in line with lockdown rules. Selling everything from fancy dress costumes to party poppers was doomed.

But owners Lee and Oona Robinson decided that instead of shutting-up shop for good, they would offer shelf space to creative people in the area so they could sell their hand-made goods or artwork and local feedback on the idea was so good they are planning to open the shop to visiting customers on Thursday (December 3).

Lee and Oona Robinson. Photographer: Phil Whyte (43366772)
Lee and Oona Robinson. Photographer: Phil Whyte (43366772)

“It has been a disaster for the party industry that we have been in for 16 years and is our primary source of trade. Rather than having our shelves gathering dust, with supplies for parties that are simply not happening, or worse still, closing our doors permanently like lots of other businesses, we researched what the local community would like to see,” said Oona, who has three members of staff currently on the furlough scheme.

“The feedback was brilliant and the community has, as always, been incredibly supportive and provided loads of fantastic suggestions. By far the most popular request was for us to increase space for independent retailers, artists and crafts people to showcase their products,” she said.

The Uptown Fun Emporium has seen the Town Street shop reconfigured to offer a wide range of products for the home and garden and most are produced locally by ‘some amazingly talented individuals’. Uptown Fun opened in the premises initially in 2018, when the couple moved to the village from Essex.

Uptown Fun in Upwell is re-opening its doors as an emporium.Photographer: Phil Whyte (43366767)
Uptown Fun in Upwell is re-opening its doors as an emporium.Photographer: Phil Whyte (43366767)

The business started originally after the Robinsons married abroad but wanted a special, themed party when they returned to the UK for their family and friends. Lee was made redundant and they created Partypackage, which allows people to buy everything for their celebration in one place.

Aside from shelf-space, the couple are also offering help with ecommerce for those who are not confident with online selling.

“We have decades of experience in retailing online and we are able to provide an ecommerce outlet or, for those with more experience, we can help with a website, social media sales and provide help and support," said Oona.

Uptown Fun Emporium will still sell party goods alongside the online side of the business and it will be home for local craftspeople who can find customers both in person, when allowed, and online. The shop will offer everything from handmade bags and artworks to jewellery, Christmas decorations, plants and dog leads.

If any crafts person or artist would like to learn more, or is interested in a bay or shelf space at the shop, contact Lee and Oona on 01945 772777 or via www.partypackage.co.uk

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