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Future of Portas Pilot grocery shop in Market Rasen open to pitches

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: April 08, 2013

Growing up: Mary Portas, centre, on her last visit to see how the Greens team were getting on. From left, are manager Pamela Clarkson, deputy manager Danny Bates and volunteers Jennifer Rowbotham and Rachel Quinn

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An aspiring entrepreneur or an ambitious community group could take over a celebrity-backed grocery shop if their business ideas impress a Dragons Den-style panel.

People in Market Rasen are being invited to pitch their suggestions for the future of Greens in Queen Street, which was set up as part of the town's Portas Pilot project.

The voluntary Market Rasen Business Improvement Group which launched the store is passing on the reins.

And the Mr Big team is inviting both commercial offers and pitches from local community enterprise groups.

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The closing date for expressions of interest is 5pm on Friday, April 5. Shortlisted candidates will then be asked to pitch their business plan and vision to a panel of three Mr Big directors next week.

Government retail guru Mary Portas visited Greens during her latest visit to the town in February and declared it as "absolutely brilliant, chic and appetising".

Greens opened last December in a bid to plug a gap on the high street and has already developed into more than a local fruit and vegetable shop.

It also sells baskets of locally-sourced fresh produce and Lincolnshire artisan foods. Jams and chutneys, sauces, herbs, pickles, oils and spices are displayed with local cheeses, salads, soups and quiches alongside fresh daily breads, cakes and quiches.

Greens has a successful home delivery box scheme providing weekly £10 and £15 fruit and veg boxes. The store has also achieved Select Lincolnshire status.

Market Rasen Business Improvement Group chairman Sara Scott said: "One of they key promises in our original town transformation plan was sustainable shopping.

"So, while we've been happy to get Greens on its feet as a must-have part of our high street offer, it's time for our team to move on.

"We will concentrate on looking at more innovative ways to fill empty premises with vital services that drive footfall for other retailers and create opportunities in our community.

"Although we want the shop to be a success, our team never intended to become shopkeepers.

"So Greens is on the market. The 'sale' may enable us to recoup some of the Portas monies invested – which in turn would enable us to continue to target other much-needed transformative projects on the high street.

"The biggest consideration for us will be whether or not the interested parties or groups have the vision and determination to see Greens succeed for the long-term.

"We want local people to be able to buy the finest Lincolnshire produce direct from our high street."

Mr Big finance director Richard Hallsworth said: "We are particularly interested in passing Greens over to a social enterprise – run for the community, by the community.

"But we are also happy to receive interest from private parties with the passion to ensure the success of this vital retail anchor on our high street.

"Mary Portas says there's only one way to save our high streets – get involved."

For more information e-mail Market Rasen town centre manager Nicola Marshall at mrbigtowncentremanager@hotmail.com

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