Multi-million pound plans to restore what was once the home of ‘Bobby’s’ department store to its former glory have been hailed as “a great coup” for Bournemouth.
Jacqui Rock, President of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, was speaking after Verve Properties announced that it was restoring the prominent building in The Square. It was due to lie empty when the current occupier, Debenhams, closes its doors for the final time on May 15.
Many of the building’s original features will now be reinstated, including the original 1933 front entrance, or uncovered.
Jacqui told Dorset Biz News: “This is a great coup for Bournemouth.
Very much a ‘wow’ retail shopping experience, which is just what we need as people’s expectations become higher. Bobby’s is something that is not only iconic to us locally, it is wonderful to launch the town as we re-emerge from lockdown. I, for one, can’t wait to visit.”
In a press release, Verve Properties, the development company which recently transformed the nearby Avenue Centre, said that it was “focused on securing local, independent, and socially conscious brands to work with, to ensure that the regeneration reflects the changes the pandemic has accelerated in social and shopping patterns.”
Plans are in place for the first parts of the store to reopen in mid-July this year, with more elements opening all the way through the year and into 2022.
First to open will be Bobby’s Beauty Hall, a traditional ice cream and coffee parlour, an art gallery, and a dog café in the Lower Gardens.
The beauty hall will have local, sustainable, and conscious brands sitting alongside the big brands. As an independent beauty operation, Bobby’s Beauty Hall will offer products and brands not previously available at Debenhams. There will also be a Sushi and plant-based Poke Bowl Bar, a nail bar and treatment rooms for female and male grooming. The watch repairing station ‘In Time’ will be retained.
On the first floor the large windows overlooking the Square will be opened up, new balconies installed, and the floor will house a food and market hall.
This will include street food outlets including plant-based food, a deli, a bar and speciality retail market pods. Spa facilities are in the planning stages and, it is hoped, will open in 2022. The second floor will house an art gallery with more details to be revealed in coming weeks.
Accessed from Terrace Road, old buildings at the rear will be reorganised to create a garden area and a micro-brewery and craft ale smokery bar. Following that, plans are in place to open a 4th floor restaurant and bar and roof terrace bar. – all with a key focus on the local community.
There are also plans in place, due to be announced soon, for a very special collaboration with the Bournemouth-bred artist Stuart Semple, which will involve memories of the town.
Bobby & Co opened in 1915 in The Square in Bournemouth and remained under that name for more than 50 years. It was rebranded in 1972 as part of the Debenhams group.