New Beginnings

PUBLISHED: 15:21 03 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:50 20 February 2013

Jonathan and Helen Tremlett

Jonathan and Helen Tremlett

For some of Ilminster's inhabitants, the arrival of 2012 heralds new beginnings. And there's an exciting year ahead with the town playing its part in the Olympic celebrations.

For some of Ilminsters inhabitants, the arrival of 2012 heralds new beginnings. And theres an exciting year ahead with the town playing its part in the Olympic celebrations

The New Year means a new start in more ways than one for Jonathan and Helen Tremlett. Together with their four children, the couple have moved over 200 miles from Leeds to Ilminster and opened a new Italian restaurant in the middle of this busy Somerset market town.

With the splendid Minster parish church at its centre, the charming streets of Ilminster are lined with popular independently owned businesses that pride themselves on offering a personal service. And where some towns may show the outward signs of the poor economic climate, here in Ilminster youre unlikely to come across any shop premises which have been standing empty for long.

Picolo di Piazza has recently opened in a spot overlooking the bustling Market Square, and it was while they were carrying out work on the building that Helen and Jonathan realised they would be made welcome here.

"From the minute we started the refurbishment, most of the other business owners stuck heads round the door and offered help," says Jonathan, who has a background in the restaurant trade.

Helens cousin used to run a restaurant in the same building and she and Jonathan are no strangers to this part of the world.

"We have family in Shepton Beauchamp and used to spend every Easter with them and we have always loved Ilminster," he recalls.

"The biggest worry about coming here was uprooting the children, but they have all settled in unbelievably well.

"Everyone in the community seems to support one another which is why its a thriving town," says Jonathan. "Its an amazing place to be working in."

Another new business has found a home in one of Ilminsters landmark buildings. RA Dyers was established as a traditional drapers shop opposite the church in 1870 and the premises has changed little since the early 1900s. Now, on the second floor, customers can find a pretty fabrics and soft furnishings showroom run by Claire Wakely.

Having moved her business from nearby Hambridge to Ilminster, Claire offers a bespoke curtain-making service, as well as cushions, blinds, fabrics, wallpapers and gifts. This year she hopes to start running courses from her spacious workroom where she works with colleague Becky Page.

"Ilminster is a really traditional town and I have lived round here all my life," says Claire.

"I was looking out for the right premises when Dyers came along, and hopefully we will be able to complement each other well."

While the move to the retail trade may be a new experience for Gaye Phillips and her daughter, Holly, they will also be carrying on a family tradition that has existed for generations.

Gaye ran a local B&B for many years before deciding to open Remains to be Seen at the end of 2011.

Their antiques and collectables business reflects their love of older objects especially the everyday items that have a story to tell.

"We love the quality and the design, the quirkiness and the nostalgia of things," says Gaye, who is also offering a pearl and bead necklace restringing service.

"My great grandfather started restringing in 1913 he went to New York to learn. He was a blacksmith who went into cars, had a change of direction, and now we are offering the restringing service too. Its something that my grandmother and my mother did and it has been past on."

Part of Ilminsters charm is its architecture and one of the buildings which has been serving the local community for almost three centuries is the Meeting House.

Once a place of worship, today the place is a magnet for art lovers and, thanks in large part to the hard work of unpaid volunteers, the Ilminster Arts Centre at the Meeting House provides an excellent venue for concerts and exhibitions in the 21st century.

"Its unique in terms of the facility it provides for the community, otherwise you are talking about travelling to Yeovil or Taunton for anyone to experience anything similar," explains treasurer and trustee Christine Walker.

The Meeting Houses 50-plus volunteers help in various different ways and 2012 has begun on a high for them after the charitable organisation received a much-needed cash boost.

The arts centre is delighted to have won a Natwest Community Force Award of 6,000 which means the caf kitchen can be given a vital makeover.

And if 2012 is your year for starting something new, The Meeting house is always looking for volunteers especially those with IT or management skills.

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