Popular bridal boutique finds new home in Rochester after ULEZ expansion forces relocation

Popular bridal boutique, Beau Brides, has found a new home in Rochester High Street after being forced to relocate due to the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) expansion.

Linda Quayle, the owner of Beau Brides, has made the decision to move her business from Bexley Village to the former site of Cheran’s Bakery on Rochester High Street. Quayle claims that her business suffered a significant decline in customers, losing 70% of her regular clientele, after the ULEZ expansion was rolled out in August of last year.

The bridal boutique offers a wide selection of gowns, bridesmaid and prom dresses, and also provides personalized consultations and custom-made outfits by an in-house seamstress.

“I managed to survive the lockdown and rising living costs,” Quayle told KentOnline. “Then Sadiq Khan decided to install a ULEZ camera right outside my shop. As a result, 70% of my business disappeared overnight. I live in Walderslade, so I decided to move closer to home. The ULEZ was crippling my business, and when I saw the available space in Rochester, I jumped at the opportunity.”

The ULEZ expansion, which began in central London with the aim of reducing air pollution by discouraging drivers of older, more polluting vehicles with a daily charge of £12.50, has been met with criticism and even protests. Mayor Sadiq Khan defended his decision, stating that it was necessary to address the city’s poor air quality.

Quayle has over 30 years of experience in the wedding industry and has previously worked with well-known dress companies such as White Rose, Casablanca, and Très Chic. However, she says that she fell into the job by chance.

“When I was in school, I wanted to be a social worker,” she explained. “But I got pregnant at 16 and got married at 17, so I never had the chance to go to college. I happened to walk past a bridal shop, June Brides, in Chatham High Street, and they were looking to hire someone. I didn’t know anything about the industry, but within six months, I became a manager.”

The new bridal boutique, located across from Baggins Book Bazaar, was previously occupied by the popular bakery chain, Cheran’s Bakery. The chain, run by entrepreneur Cheran Friedman, had branches all over the county, including Faversham, Canterbury, Maidstone, and Rochester. However, in January of this year, Friedman announced that all locations, except for the Sittingbourne store, would be closing immediately.

The building generated a lot of interest when it went on the market, with 14 other interested parties putting in offers. Quayle was quick to secure the space, stating, “It came online, and within two minutes, I emailed them and got it sorted. Shops in that area rarely become available, and it was the perfect location for me.”

After opening her new shop on March 9, Quayle has received an overwhelming response from the community. “The local businesses around me have come in to wish me luck, and people are constantly popping in to check in on us. It’s really heartwarming. I’m so glad I made the decision to move here. I absolutely love my little shop, and I’ve been wanting to relocate to Rochester for the past five years.”

While the ULEZ expansion has impacted many businesses and individuals, there is hope for change. Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has voiced his opposition to the daily charge, calling it an “unfair tax” that disproportionately affects working-class individuals. In December, Johnson introduced a private members bill in Parliament in an attempt to reverse the ULEZ expansion, which has received government support and is currently being debated.

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