Colchester mourns the loss of many of its long-standing independent stores
PUBLISHED: 12:12 27 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 29 January 2019
Eld Lane in Colchester was once a haven for independent shops, and a magnet for tourists. But sadly, many of the shops along this quaint pedestrianised shopping street have recently become victims of the recession that’s gripping town centres everywhere.
Most startling is the closure of Minerva Chocolates, an independent chocolate shop that has had a shop near Boots, for more than 30 years, selling English and Belgium hand made chocolate and figurines.
Minerva was known for its artistic touch when it came to chocolate, and its beautiful window displays at Easter and Christmas time would make passers by’s mouths drool.
But Minerva faced stiff competition in the gourmet chocolate market from Thorntons on nearby Trinity Street, and then from Hotel Chocolat when it opened up a store in Culver Street West just over a year ago.
The decision was made to close Minerva Chocolates last March, due to declining footfall. A Facebook post stated: “That we continue trading is entirely due to our wonderful girls who have taken a major wage cut, thus enabling us to continue until the end of the year.”
Alan Edwards, who ran the shop with his wife Madeleine Edwards, said: “We are all having a tough time (in retail). Four shops closed in Colchester at Christmas – Eclettico in Trinity Street, White Shine in Sir Isaac’s, Innes Cole and us in Eld Lane, thus losing over 100 years of retail experience. Basically, everyone has gone except tattoo parlours, cosmetics shops and hairdressers, phone shops and cafes.”
The last day of trading for Ecletico, an independent, family-run gift shop known for its wide range of teddy bears and other soft toys, is on January 31.
Judith and husband Gary Naylor ran the shop for ten years, and the previous owner had been there for more than 20 years.
“I am so tremendously proud of how Harriette, Judith, Vicky and all the supporting team they have had with them over the years have transformed the shop into the vibrant and exciting shopping experience that it has become today,” said Mr Naylor upon announcing the decision to close the store.
Innes Cole, a few doors down from Minerva, was a small independent men’s outfitter that had been in business in Colchester since the 1970s.
And a few feet away, Flawless Nails & Beauty is also empty, with a boarded up doorway indicating an attempted break-in.
White Shine jewellery has closed down its store on January 12 after ten years of trading, with a sign explaining that the company will still be selling jewellery on its website.
Ralph & Rita Martin florists shut down its store on Eld Lane in November, although the company’s other florist, on Layer Road, remains open. Humphrey’s closed down its greengrocers on Eld Lane two years ago after 58 years of trading.
And Colchester has also mourned the loss of two of its independent butchers - Gellers on St John Street, and Frank Wright and Son butchers on Crouch Street, which had been trading for 80 years.
Although Eld Lane still has a lively cafe culture, with Small Talk Tearooms, Caffe Sala and Wild at Spirit still going strong, the future is uncertain for Patisserie Valerie further down the street on Sir Isaacs Walk, as the firm struggles to find a buyer after going into administration.
The businesses that still stand strong in the Eld Lane area of Colchester are the ones selling in the sort of thing you can’t easily buy online. Men’s barbers shops are flourishing. There is also a bridal boutique store, MiliMili, and the independently-run The Original Art Shop has been going for 31 years.
There are also still new stores opening up. This week, An Ethical Life opened an eco friendly zero waste store above Just Essentials and next to Colchester’s only dairy-free diner, Shakers Dairy Free.
Reflecting society’s increasing awareness of environmental issues, the shop sells refillable household products and cosmetics and food items, which are vegan and plant-based.
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