Middlesbrough’s historic Dundas Indoor Market is nearly full for the first time in more than five years.

Four new independent local businesses have just started trading and there are a couple of others in the pipeline. Only two units remain unoccupied and options are being explored to increase the size of the Market to meet demand.

Manager David Harris said there a number of reasons why the Market has bucked the trend which has seen major retailers close their shops in Middlesbrough town centre: “I think the pandemic convinced a lot of people to take the plunge and work for themselves – if they didn’t do it now they never would.

“We make it easy and affordable for traders to move in. We offer a package which covers all their bills, so all they need to worry about is giving their customers what they want.”

Over the past few months the Market owner has expanded its cornerstone business Jean’s Kitchen and invested in new lighting and signage in both the Indoor Market and the neighbouring Dundas Shopping Centre. The Centre has also seen the arrival a new business – The Brickyard Bakery - which is going from strength to strength.

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Woolen Wonders is typical of the type of trader the Market attracts. Fifty-two-year-old Fiona Williams has been crocheting for 30 years and until now gave away everything she made.

“My children have always said why not make a business. After my husband got some compensation after an accident at work we thought we would do something with the money rather than waste it,” she said.

Mum-of-three Fiona, whose mother was a seamstress, sells anything to do with crocheting, knitting and sewing. “My prices are really low to encourage people to take up a craft. If you handmake something they’re going to last you a lot longer than what you buy in a shop,” she said.

Another of the new businesses – Roger Brands – is also selling items at rock bottom prices. It buys end of line or surplus items, such as clothes, shoes, handbags and luggage from chain stores and offers them at low cost to customers to ensure rapid stock rotation.

Nearby, Elizabeth Lister sells greetings cards, gifts, home-made bath bombs and wax melts for every special occasion.

“The location here is fantastic and I’d been looking around at other places and they charge a fortune,” said Elizabeth who hopes one day her two teenage children will help her grow the business.

The latest trader to arrive at the Market is 29-year-old Yewodianos Girma who describes her business Afro Royals as “Ethiopian-inspired cuisine with a touch of British”.

She said: “I’ve managed a couple of restaurants before which has given me the confidence to start this. I’ve had an insight of the inside and I think I’ve got a good idea how to make things better and tastier.”

Market Manager David said: “I’ve been really impressed by all four and let’s hope they get the support they need from customers in their crucial first few months.

“The beauty here though is that you can give it a go and if it doesn’t work out you’re not up to your eyes in debt,” he said.

“But there are many occupiers who have been here a long time and prove to be successful by providing shoppers with products they can’t buy anywhere else. There are also businesses, like The Brickyard Bakery, who have tested the water and needed more space to grow.”