Rachel Parkin runs Balagan. She started selling jewellery that she made (I don’t think “handmade” was a term used way back then…) on the high street from a market stall some years ago. She managed to work her way up into a small leased shop right in the heart of Peterborough. Literally – it’s part of the Cathedral. This shop has always been known as a great boutique shop to find quirky interesting gifts. Plenty of jewellery still, but also handbags, clothes, scarves and other “fancy frippery” I think it was called somewhere. The name of the shop has now changed, it’s “Reba”, but “Balagan” is still used for the wholesale business.
Rachel has always worked her socks off – as the business has grown, there’s been plenty of office/management work to do, but she still manages to do the designing and promoting that she’s so good at. Every time I talk to her, which can have gaps of months or just days, she has a new project, idea, plan, visit to a trade fair, catalogue to photograph… she’s just always on the move. If this were only for her own business, I’d still find that inspirational; to see what she’s done with Balagan from the beginning is amazing.
But she also champions other independent retailers. She’s written columns in the local paper; for local magazines. She started “Retail Rehab” when the recession hit, to encourage retailers to work through the problems and work together. She is now starting a local initiative that I guess I can’t talk about right now, but it’s already attracted media attention and support. Revitalising the high street, by galvanising independents into action is going to happen in Peterborough if only through the sheer strength of will of Rachel!
Submitted by Lorena J A Hodgson BA FRSA