Why business is thriving in the seaside town of Crosby

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 November 2018

Des Fleet and 'Oscar' at his Fleet Piano Workshop

Des Fleet and 'Oscar' at his Fleet Piano Workshop


This pretty coastal town has an irresistible pulling power for people wanting to set up their own business and that’s good news for locals and visitors

Pat Moore at micropub, The Liverpool PigeonPat Moore at micropub, The Liverpool Pigeon

Crosby was declared one of the UK’s best places to live in a survey by The Sunday Times and that certainly strikes a chord with the people who have decided to set up their homes and businesses in this lovely coastal town.

One of them is florist, Claire Smithwick. She chose it over an offer from The Queen’s household. ‘I was offered the post of supervisory florist at Buckingham Palace,’ says Claire, who runs the Your Flower Company. ‘The Queen takes her own florists with her when she moves between residences, so it was very tempting. But I wanted to start a family and, to me, the best place to do that was my home town. Besides, it’s a good place to start a business.’

Claire, who had previously worked as a senior florist for The Dorchester Hotel, adds: ‘I like my flowers to be a little unusual. I do everything from hand tying small bouquets to creating huge flower walls for commercial premises and weddings. The only downside is that ladders and scaffolding are involved and, as I’m only 5ft tall, I’ve had to train myself not to look down.’

Flowers and plants are said to have a calming effect but, as some of Allison Devine’s clients would be inclined to eat them, she has had to declare her business a plant-free zone. Bella and Buster’s is a dog grooming salon and clients travel many miles to enjoy her procedures from baths and blow dries to brush outs and fragrance spritzes!

Steve Pritchard and assistant, Vanessa Edwardson, at Pritchards Book ShopSteve Pritchard and assistant, Vanessa Edwardson, at Pritchards Book Shop

‘Almost all dogs love a spot of pampering but they do have to get used to it and that’s why I began my Play and Learn Puppy sessions. We play with them and gently introduce them to the grooming process. It usually takes three sessions to accustom them but always just the one session for me to fall in love,’ says Allison who advises that owners don’t stay during Play and Learn but who always sends anxious owners a photograph of their puppy having fun.

Allison had spent most of her working life in retail management but decided to gain the highest possible qualifications in dog grooming and animal first aid before following her heart and making a career change and she’s not the only Crosby business person to do that.

For 13 years, Pat Moore was a primary school teacher but during all that time, he harboured a dream of opening the area’s first micropub. He took the leap in October 2013 and just two years later his micropub, The Liverpool Pigeon, had scooped the Liverpool and District CAMRA Pub of the Year.

‘Crosby was the perfect place. It’s lively and there’s a great community spirit,’ he said.

Claire Smithwick who turned down an royal engagement to set up Your Flower CompanyClaire Smithwick who turned down an royal engagement to set up Your Flower Company

‘We keep a good selection of ales with tasting notes for those who want to know more but the one question we’re always asked isn’t about the beers at all: it’s why the pub is called The Liverpool Pigeon and no, it’s nothing to do with The Liver Birds. The Liverpool Pigeon was a real pigeon, in the collection of the Earl of Derby. It’s in the Liverpool Museum now.’

Fleet’s’ Piano Workshop and Music School also began with a career change, although it happened some time ago. Des Fleet runs the business today but his dad began it in 1978, after many years spent running a removal company.

‘We removed lots of pianos because there was a time when acoustic pianos fell out of favour and that led to us learning how to re-tune and cosmetically clean them and do just about everything right up to a full restoration,’ he says. ‘We still use some tools that a Victorian piano maker would be familiar with and that sense of heritage is something we’re proud of, especially as we operate from a renovated 19th century blacksmith’s forge.’

Acoustic pianos are back in fashion again and many people are keen to have one in the home. ‘Obviously, most people don’t have room for a concert size grand but there is usually room for a small upright somewhere,’ says Des, who has clients all over the country and who has learned the art of driving the company van very cautiously, when delivering a piano.

Never work with animals and children. Our Mairead with Allison DevineNever work with animals and children. Our Mairead with Allison Devine

‘Yes, pianos in transit have to be handled carefully. One of my favourite movie moments is the one when Laurel and Hardy try to manoeuvre a piano up a flight of stairs, as there’s a lesson in how not to do it,’ laughs Des who also offers music lessons and a recording studio where budding Beatles can have a go at making the next Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Of course, if anyone does pull their back moving a piano, they can always hobble along to Core. ‘We offer a huge variety of classes and treatments – everything from classes for new mums right through to senior citizens, as well as osteopathy nutrition advice and slightly more unusual treatments such as Reiki and Cryotherapy, which is the application of pressurised liquid nitrogen to the skin in order to treat various sports injuries,’ explains Pauline Lawrenson, who manages the clinic. She is also a Pilates specialist, attributing her boundless energy and youthful looks to the fact that she has been practising for 26 years.

Steve Pritchard, of Pritchard’s Bookshop, has been selling books for even longer – more than 40 years – and even though bookshops have known some hard times, Steve believes that books are enjoying a renaissance.

‘People have always loved books and I think many are starting to realise that an electronic reading device might not give the same experience as an actual book. There is a place for them but if you drop a book a book in the bath, it isn’t going to cost you the same or run the risk of electrocuting you,’ laughs Steve who has made sure that Pritchard’s has thrived by offering a top personal service whether a customer is looking for a book on England’s telephone boxes – yes, Steve has been asked to source one – or which latest best seller to suit a difficult relative at Christmas.

Pilates specialist Pauline Lawrenson leads one of her classesPilates specialist Pauline Lawrenson leads one of her classes

‘In fact, I probably already know the grumpy relative as our shop is a place where we get to know the area’s book lovers whether they’re five or 95,’ says Steve whose reputation as a book-seller means he attracts well-known names to talk about their books – from ex-Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, to television personalities like John Suchet.

Steve might be thinking of retiring soon but he won’t give up the shop until he has found another book-lover to take it on because for Steve, a healthy bookshop is a sure-fire sign that a town is booming. Crosby certainly is and that’s why it deserves the accolade of being one of the best places to live.

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