A NUMBER of successful businesses opened their doors across south Essex in 2023, going on to become well-established in the community.

Here we take a look back and check in with some of those businesses:

Paul Edwards, 44, is the owner of Geek Garage, and opened up his store back in April 2023.

His business, based in High Street, Wickford, sells collectables and items such as Funko Pops, Loungefly, and Pokémon.

Echo: Geek GarageGeek Garage (Image: Newsquest)

Paul first started the business from his garage in 2019 as online only.

After opening his store earlier this year, where hundreds turned out for the opening, he said the business really feels like it fits in.

He said: “Even starting up this business just before Covid hit, it was a big challenge and a gamble.

“But I am persistent and a hard worker so I didn’t let this stop us from dreaming on bigger goals ahead to one day having a big shop.

“We now have an amazing community and customers at the shop. 

“I feel our family run independent business has really fit in at Wickford, and we have been welcomed with love and support.

“Here’s to a bigger 2024.”

Nicola Blackwell and Drew Steel threw open the doors to their “striking floral-themed” cafe – Olives by the Sea – in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, in September.

Echo: Nicola Blackwell and Drew Steel Nicola Blackwell and Drew Steel (Image: Newsquest)

Despite only being open for a few months, they say they have been “overwhelmed” with the support and recently received a five-out-of-five food hygiene rating.

Nicola said: “We have been open for three months now and have been overwhelmed with the support we have been shown.

“We are seeing so many returning faces and meeting new people all the time. We have recently introduced loyalty cards to show our gratitude for the incredible support from customers too.

“The community presence within Hamlet Court Road is lovely and it is so encouraging to see so many businesses and groups focused on improving the area and making it a positive and thriving place.

“We have big plans for the new year and can't wait to expand on what our café has to offer.”

The Paper Street Coffee Co, along Southend seafront, was opened back in September by Liam Williams, and his wife Michelle.

The quirky coffee shop boasts its own ‘mini-library’ so visitors can enjoy a coffee while relaxing and reading a book.

There is also a connecting martial arts club run by Liam too, who has spent the last 25 years teaching fitness.

Echo: The Paper Street Coffee CoThe Paper Street Coffee Co (Image: Newsquest)

Liam said: “We only opened The Paper Street Coffee Co. towards the end of the year but it has already been a fantastic experience.

“There have been a couple of bumps in the road with equipment breakdowns but despite this, we have been incredibly lucky to have built an amazing community who have supported us every step of the way.

“It has been an awesome journey so far and I cannot wait to see what is in store for 2024.”

In April, Benfleet restaurant – Asia Benfleet – opened up a takeaway branch called Asia Leigh in Elmsleigh Drive.

The business was looking to capitalise on its success at its Benfleet store.

Owner, Waheed Khan, said: “Since opening, the business has been steady, but it has been tough with all the rising costs.

“However, we are still going and aim to make a success of it like our Benfleet Branch.

“In the short space of time, we have managed to build a regular customer base being the new Indian in the block, but we have a long way to go and hope to keep our doors open for many more years.”

Some of the other restaurants and businesses that opened across south Essex in 2023, include Zinnia, Cristi’s Bar, The Mist Café Bistro, and 53 Bistro.