The day has come – we can all return to our local shops! After so long cooped up in our homes, we’ll be happy for the change of scenery – even if it’s a supermarket! But our local business owners have been cooped up, too, and they can’t wait to welcome you back to their shops.
Whether you’re looking for a quirky vintage shop to travel back in time, a tasty pit-stop between shopping, a colourful arrangement of flowers, books to explore new worlds in, or fresh ingredients for those new recipes you found over lockdown, our borough has amazing local businesses waiting for you.
There also plenty of dog-friendly businesses across our borough, so our four-legged friends can join the fun, too. Just make sure to check with the staff before you take your dog inside – or, if the weather is nice, eat and drink outside in the fresh air!
We’re all excited to get back to our MEA, but we still have to keep ourselves and everyone else safe. That’s why our local business owners have been working hard to make sure they’re keeping you safe while you’re out and about.
Shop safe, support local, and welcome back to #ourMEA!
How do we keep you safe?
We want you to be able to enjoy supporting local businesses, so our council’s Town Centre team have been busy distributing locally-branded face masks to businesses. These masks are designed with distinct branding for each of our three main shopping towns (Ballymena, Carrickfergus, and Larne) so that you can proudly show that you’re supporting local businesses.
As well as this, we introduced the COVID Confidence Scheme last year. With this, we could help our local businesses in making sure they had introduced safety and hygiene measures to protect our community’s health.
We’ve also installed public hand sanitiser stations throughout our towns so that you feel safe at every turn.
Shop Safe and Support Local in Ballymena
If our local business owners have shown us anything recently, it’s how much they want you to safely enjoy a community spirit while shopping locally. Lesley McCaughan, the owner of Ballymena’s Follow Coffee, had only opened her café three weeks before lockdown forced her to close her doors. But this didn’t stop her – instead, Lesley came up with the charming and creative idea of using a horse cart around town to offer takeaway coffee. This worked out well for Lesley, as it allowed her to create a customer base and meet the community. By using a horse cart, Lesley also made sure that her customers were safe outside while enjoying a delicious hot drink.
Your safety is also important to Laura Elliot, owner of Chocoa, a local chocolate and coffee shop. Laura’s priority when reopening her doors was for her customers to feel safe when returning to the high street, while still being able to treat their sweet tooth.
We know that you might be nervous about going back out and being around groups of people again, so it may be easier for you to be able to plan your day out. Therefore, we’ve added a list of our MEA-owned car parks, so that you have one less thing to worry about. You can park for up to five hours for only £1 in all our borough’s carparks. If you don’t want to stay that long, smaller tariffs are available, and normal tariffs will still apply for longer stays if you just can’t get enough of our local businesses.
Plus, all of Ballymena’s MEA-owned carparks include disabled parking spaces, so everyone can enjoy #ourMEA!
Ballymena’s free MEA-owned carparks include:
- Broughshane Street (2) – 84 spaces
- Mount Street (1) – 84 spaces
- Mount Street (2) – 51 spaces
- Galgorm Village – 58 spaces
- Ahoghill Village – 63 spaces
Charges apply at these MEA-owned carparks in Ballymena:
- Ballymoney Road – 177 spaces
- Broughshane Street (1) – 249 spaces
- Church Street (1) – 193 spaces
- Church Street (2) – 123 spaces
- Church Street (3) – 140 spaces
- Henry Street – 86 spaces
- Tower Centre – 840 spaces
Shop Safe and Support Local in Carrickfergus
When you’re checking out local businesses in Carrickfergus, you can enjoy a safe shopping experience.
Kathryn Wilson, the owner of Serenity Hair, wants her customers to feel as safe as possible when fixing their lockdown locks. Before reopening her salon, Kathryn introduced a number of safety measures, and has even added two members to her staff that will help keep the salon clean. Kathryn has also extended appointment times so that she can thoroughly clean between clients, and face masks must be worn at all times by both staff and clients. Screens have also been set up between areas, and hand sanitiser stations have been added for you to feel safe at all times.
Hand sanitisers are also a way of keeping you safe while shopping in The Mulberry Bush. Owner Anita McCabe wants to make sure that those who are anxious about returning to the high street will have a safe environment to shop in. That’s why she also provides gloves for when you want to handle clothing in this baby and children’s boutique and gift shop.
Knowing where to park your car can take a weight off your shoulders when planning a day out at your local shops, so we’ve added a list of MEA-owned carparks in Carrickfergus for you. Plus, all of our carparks in Carrickfergus have disabled parking.
Our borough’s free carparks include:
- Castle Car Park – 170 spaces
- Windrose – 75 spaces
- Marine Gardens – 37 spaces
Charges apply at the following MEA-owned carparks in Carrickfergus:
- High Street – 60 spaces
- Joymount – 77 spaces
- Lancasterian Street – 109 spaces
Shop Safe and Support Local in Larne
Local business owners in Larne also know how important it is for you to feel safe when supporting local. Ann’s Pantry has been a staple of Larne’s town centre since it opened over fifty years ago. This award-winning bakery uses quality ingredients and traditional products, as well as safety measures to help welcome you back to the high street. Ann’s Pantry remained open during lockdown so that local customers could still enjoy their comfort food, and Helen believes that the community will continue to look after one another.
You can look after your local business owners by supporting local shops.
Below, you can find information on Larne’s carparks. Disabled parking is available at our borough’s carparks, except Curran Park (East) and Curran Park (West).
Larne’s free MEA-owned carparks include:
- Curran Park (East) – 40 spaces
- Curran Park (West) – 40 spaces
- Bridge Street – 38 spaces
- Circular Road East – 100 spaces
- Exchange Road – 87 spaces
- High Street – 16 spaces
- Inver Road – 22 spaces
Charges apply at these MEA-owned carparks in Larne:
- Agnew Street – 92 spaces
- Circular Road West – 179 spaces
- Fairhill – 28 spaces
- Narrow Gauge – 73 spaces
- Riverdale East – 46 spaces
Welcome Back to Your MEA
While you’re out and rediscovering your local businesses that add colour to our high street, remember to watch out for those around you. Pay contactless if you can and follow social distance markings in your local shops. We still need to keep each other safe; by working together, we can all have a good day on the high street.
✔️ Wash Your Hands
✔️ Wear a Face Mask
✔️ Keep a Safe Distance
Also, why not celebrate being back in your MEA on social media? When you’re doing a bit of retail therapy, share your photos with the tag #ourMEA so that others can see how great and safe our local businesses are.