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Shops

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SHOPS OPEN AND SHUT with much greater rapidity today. Perhaps contemporary customers are far more fickle than in the past.

There was a time when once a business had established itself and earned a reputation for fairness and good service it tended to stick around for many decades.

Now, with price apparently the over-riding consideration, traders find life much tougher. The burgeoning supermarkets certainly haven’t helped.

And although Faversham has of late seen a revival in its trading fortunes, the variety of shops is not as wide as it was. Here are some names from the past.

Remember Little Covent Garden, a greengrocer’s in West Street? It was briefly a toy shop and has been the office of the Faversham Times since 1974.

Looking at the photograph you might not recognise it as the Times HQ because the display windows were remodelled and the entrance door moved to the middle.

It’s something of a coincidence that the town’s other newspaper office, only a couple of doors away, was also once a fruit and veg outlet — for Cecil Covington’s produce.

How times change! In 1968 Faversham boasted six greengrocers. Now there is only one. check

Similarly, the town offered an impressive selection of a dozen butcher’s shops in that year. Today we have just three. check

Supermarket shopping has cut the numbers of independent traders to the bone.

And what of Cooper and Laurence, a one-time thriving ironmonger’s on the corner of Queen’s Parade in East Street?

It was a marvellous store that always had an excellent selection of china and glass, along with all the other domestic essentials for the kitchen and handyman. Many of us mourned its closure some 20 years ago.

Another shop which passed into oblivion during the 1980s was the quality shoe retailer’s D Plumridge, next door to the Fine Fare supermarket in Preston Street. Cut-price competition killed it, along with so many other small enterprises.

Once upon a time Faversham boasted four pharmacies — Carlisle in Market Street, Boots and Kerr’s in Market Place and the Co-op in Preston Street.

The Co-op abandoned its prescription service and eventually closed, Kerr’s (later Azam’s) also shut— a sad blow since the premises had been a pharmacy for several hundred years: it still bears its mortar and pestle sign.

Boots moved to larger premises in Preston Street and Carlisle’s to Bank Street.

The late Tony Carlisle was a shrewd businessman and, when he realised a health centre was to be built at Bank Street in the late 1970s, he bought a property immediately opposite.

Fine Fare, Faversham’s first self-service store, opened in Preston Street in 1960, an ugly new building in the place of several historic properties including Theo Barber’s splendid photographic studio and the Dolphin Hotel.

Fine Fare was initially a big hit with shoppers, but its dominance soon waned and by the late 1970s it had gone. Now the building is a branch of Superdrug.

Further along Preston Street, on the opposite side, was Gentry’s, an old-fashioned furniture store where quality goods and polite service went hand in hand.

The shop had traded throughout the 20th century, surviving two world wars and all manner of shifts in fashion, yet just before the millennium it closed to the dismay of loyal customers
Its demise left yet another gap in our “High Street” that has not been filled. Today it is an amusement arcade.

At least when the well-respected family butcher’s business of W E Dengate in West Street was taken over by Barkaways in the 1960s, it remained a butcher’s. And happily, Barkaways has gone from strength to strength, demonstrating emphatically that it is possible to compete with the supermarkets by providing high-class meat products for the table accompanied by superb friendly service.

Another emporium remembered fondly by shoppers was the jeweller and watchmaker W and H Reeves, which occupied a prime site and historic property in Market Place for decades.
Eventually, Reeves moved to Preston Street, and the shop it left behind has since served many purposes ranging from food store to country and western outfitters. Now it is CHK a shop selling mobile telephones.

But there are still constants, like White’s of Kent, for example, which adapt and persevere, proving that with the right goods and a commitment to customer satisfaction shops that mum and gran patronised can still fill our needs in this new century. 

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