ONE of Bournemouth’s most famous retail brands is returning to the town centre, nearly half a century after it disappeared.
Bobby’s department store is making a comeback to its former home in the Debenhams building.
The move is a huge boost for the town centre’s revitalisation and set to be transformational for the Square.
Bobby’s is due to open in July. Debenhams finally closes this week after the national business collapsed earlier this year.
The plans for the building are being led by developers Verve Properties, who also own and operate the Avenue Centre on nearby Commercial Road.
Bobby & Co opened in Bournemouth Square in May 1915 but became Debenhams in 1972.
Verve say the iconic building will be restored as closely as possible to its original architectural splendour and the company is intent on “securing local and socially conscious brands to work with, to ensure that the regeneration has a positive impact.”
The first elements of the new store will open in mid-July, with more throughout the year and into 2022.
First will be Bobby’s Beauty Hall, a traditional ice cream and coffee parlour, art gallery, and a dog café in the Lower Gardens. The beauty hall will have local, sustainable, and conscious brands and big national names.
There will also be a Sushi and plant-based Poke Bowl Bar, nail bar, treatment rooms and female and male grooming.
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, including street food outlets, deli, bar and speciality retail market pods.
Spa facilities are planned.
The second floor will house the art gallery.
Old buildings at the rear will feature a garden area, a micro-brewery and craft ale smokery bar. There will be a fourth floor restaurant and bar and roof terrace bar.
Plans for a special collaboration with the Bournemouth artist Stuart Semple, which will involve memories of the town, will be unveiled.
Ashley Nicholson, Director of Verve Properties said: “Bobby’s was at the heart of the town centre and the community.
“When we started our research into the history, we kept unearthing how bedded into the community the building was.
“We also found much of the architectural detail had survived but was covered up – so we took inspiration from that and have sought to restore what we can to bring back the grandeur of this iconic building, whilst the same time introducing some modernity.”
Verve are backing the potential for high streets to reinvent themselves.
Mr Nicholson added: “If shoppers are going to be tempted back into town centres, retailers need to consider what kind of shopping experience people will want to happen in real life.
“Beauty, clothing and footwear are good examples of retail that people want to try out in person.”
He added there would be a focus on how to make the shopping experience fun and enjoyable and said town centres “are there to serve the local community”.
Chief Operating Officer Bournemouth Town Centre Paul Kinvig
Chief Operating Officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID, Paul Kinvig, said: “It really is wonderful to see the transformation planned for the building and a real vote of confidence for our town centre.
“It will be a major draw for residents and visitors alike and a great example of the past and the future working together. Sometimes you have to go back to move forward.”
- As part of the refurbishment, the copper domes on the building will be repaired, the flagpoles reinstated, the 1970s canopy removed and replaced by the original design.
The 1933 front entrance designs are to reinstated and new ornate first floor balconies installed, part of the plans for a rebirth and celebration of the Bobby’s name and original architectural style, said Mr Nicholson.
Councillor Phil Broadhead, deputy leader of BCP Council, said: “We’ve been working closely with the new owners of this amazing piece of Bournemouth’s heritage for some time now.
“It’s genuinely exciting to see a gem in the town’s crown being brought back to its former glory.
“Furthermore, this is a real statement about the future of our high streets: many were concerned about the loss of Debenhams, yet the reality is that its replacement will be a significant improvement.
“This investment in our town and indeed whole area is very, very welcome.”