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The area can suffer in places from the rundown feel common to many British seaside resorts where the tourists stay away and unemployment is high.

But Ruth and Richard Tozer and their business partner Kevin Shaw have judged the moment and the place to be right and have launched Petticoat Lane Emporium, their vintage market, in an Edwardian warehouse - a former roller-skating rink in Ramsgate.

Opening on February 14, the organisers estimate 1200-1500 visitors came on the first Saturday, around 600-800 on the Sunday, and 400-500 daily since.

The building hosted international roller-hockey matches until the 1930s and was used recently as an engineering workshop.

London escapees are seeking 'Regency splendour on a shoestring' in the seaside town, as one local property piece had it. The high-speed rail link to London means plenty of business opportunities.

Even much-derided Margate along the coast is having a revival, they feel.

This summer the restored Dreamland amusement park reopens - joining existing artists' studios, vintage shops and brocantes in the Old Town and, of course, the Turner Contemporary Gallery on the seafront. R.G. Scott's large antique furniture warehouse in a former bathing-machine factory is another attraction in Margate.

Back in Ramsgate, the Petticoat Lane Emporium, in Dumpton Park Drive, is open seven days a week and is packed with 160 traders.

"Some are from France and many from London; there is nothing like this in Kent, and we have a healthy waiting list," said Richard, a furniture restorer who took the idea of his emporium from Molly's Den, a similar enterprise in Dorset and Hampshire.

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