A LONGSERVING market trader has thanked to community for their support in the wake of a fire which ripped through their stock.

Julie Clare Schoolwear has been trading at the Northwich outdoor market for more than 40 years – a tenure brought to a devastating conclusion by the huge blaze early on Friday morning.

One of eight long-term traders at the market, the business – which has a sister site in Winsford – is now eyeing up a new home in Northwich after the council made alternative units available.

Neil Hodkinson works at the Northwich schoolwear stall, and said space had been made available at the indoor market and along the row of shops towards the Seafarer – opposite the demolition site.

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He said: “To be fair, I have been as big a critic of the council’s market policy as anyone, but on this occasion sorting the traders out to get into new premises, they have been great.

“It’s going to be quite tough for one or two traders who have lost all of their stock. The question now for them is do they reinvest to get it all up and running again.

“It’s very difficult to insure market stock. I don’t know everyone’s situation but generally the stock wasn’t insured.”

John Mullen who sells eggs and pet food started up at the indoor market on Saturday morning, and for Julie Clare Schoolwear one of the empty Weaver Square shops is on the wishlist – albeit with some TLC needed on the interior.

In the meantime, customers have lent their support during an incredibly tough time.

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Neil said: “We have had a lot of people get in touch by email with their thoughts and we have also had customers get in touch from the Northwich schools to put in orders that we can do from Winsford.

“We have a lot of people putting orders in, even though it means they may have to collect from Winsford, so we are very grateful and thankful for that.

“From my point of view I think possibly Weaver Square and Witton Street have tended to be neglected while the council put a lot of effort into Barons Quay and making sure it doesn’t turn out to be a white elephant.

“I think traders are now saying ‘come on, we really need help from the council now’.”

Town council members on Monday night expressed their gratitude to the emergency services, who were on the scene over the weekend. They will be pushing for continued support for stallholders.

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Town mayor Cllr Kevin Rimmer said: “It’s heartening to see how the town has come together and you’ve got to feel for all the traders involved.

“The quick actions of the emergency services ensured that there were thankfully no fatalities.

“It’s happened now, and it’s now about how we deal with the aftermath.

“We have to rebuild as a town and support those affected.”

A wave of community support rushed through the town over the weekend to help all those affected, and for stallholders like Neil the hope is that the more condensed market – ahead of any possible future development as part of the Weaver Square regeneration – can pull in the punters.

“Hopefully that will be the case,” he said.

“We would like not only to welcome our loyal customers again, but now that people have seen the effect that we can have in the town we’d love them to come down and see us and have a chat.

“If you like what you see, get your hands in your pockets and support us if you can.”