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‘It’s never been work for us’ - Family-owned haberdashery prepares to close after 43 years

PUBLISHED: 16:30 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:35 01 October 2020

Fi O'Reilly at  Carolyn's in Leiston, which has been run by her family for over 40 years Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Fi O'Reilly at Carolyn's in Leiston, which has been run by her family for over 40 years Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A family business which has been a stalwart of a Suffolk high street for more than four decades is to close down.

Carolyn Proudfoot in her haberdashery shop 'Carolyn' in Leiston, preparing a window display for Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding in 1981. Picture: Carolyn ProudfootCarolyn Proudfoot in her haberdashery shop 'Carolyn' in Leiston, preparing a window display for Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding in 1981. Picture: Carolyn Proudfoot

Carolyn’s haberdashery in Leiston will soon be closing for the final time after 43 years in the town.

Owner Carolyn Proudfoot had never intended to go into the haberdashery business.

The idea for the shop came after Mrs Proudfoot heard that the lady running the drapery shop in the town was planning to retire.

“Where would I get my buttons, threads and elastics, etc?,” said Mrs Proudfoot.

The haberdashery shop Carolyn in Leiston, which is closing after over 40 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe haberdashery shop Carolyn in Leiston, which is closing after over 40 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“No internet or out-of-town shopping centres in those days, and a trip to Ipswich was generally a once-a-month outing.

“I went home and told my long-suffering hubby, Graeme, that we’d have to stock a few bits and pieces. And we did.

“I was in my element, of course, being surrounded by all these goodies, but poor Graeme was thrown in at the deep end.”

Mrs Proudfoot quickly moved away from selling her own clothes to stocking up on knitting yarns, fabrics and all the trimmings.

Carolyn's has been a staple of Leiston for over four decades Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCarolyn's has been a staple of Leiston for over four decades Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

As the year’s went by the couple’s daughters Caroline and Fi also joined the business.

Fi took over the business when Mrs Proudfoot decided to retire.

“Luckily, she still liked us to be involved, so we were often behind the counter, helping a little and happy to be feeling needed,” said Mrs Proudfoot.

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“Thanks to Fi, our friendly but slightly boring shop became bright, colourful and inspirational.”

Like many independent shops internet trade has played a role in the shop’s closure.

“In recent years, as the internet threatened the future of many small shops, Fi returned to nursing part time, to try to keep it open but she couldn’t win this war,” said Mrs Proudfoot.

What has been the best part about owning the shop for so long?

“Without a doubt, our lovely customers,” said Mrs Proudfoot.

“Many have become friends. They have shared family news, brought their crafted creations to show us, brought their toddlers to help ‘sort’ our buttons (no ‘don’t touch’, here) and brought their older children to learn to sew in one of Fi’s special workshops.

“They have also shown their appreciation with cards, crafted items, plants, flowers and sweet treats.

“We found there’s nothing more heartwarming than a thank you card made by a dear little six year old.

“While many people have been lured away by online shopping, our most loyal customers have stuck with us, and there’s a feeling that we’re letting them down.

“We just hope they know how sorry we are, and how very grateful.

“We shall miss the dear little shop we’ve loved for so many years, and we’ll miss our lovely customers, too.”

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