Bowing out after 170 years on the high street

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 June 2019

David Hemmings of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6870. Picture: Terry Ife

David Hemmings of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6870. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

A family run business, that has survived two world wars, will soon close its doors after nearly 166 years in Ottery town centre.

Jackie Parsons of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6874. Picture: Terry IfeJackie Parsons of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6874. Picture: Terry Ife

Coles, in Broad Street, will shut next month after first opening back in 1853.

The craft and haberdashery specialists began as a greengrocers in Cornhill, before establishing Coles Furnishers. It continued to expand for the next 166 years.

David Hemmings is the fifth generation of the Coles family to run the business and said personal circumstances and financial downturn had led to the decision.

Mr Hemmings, who co-owns the business with his brother John, said: "It's taken a bit of a drop in turnover in the last six months. We have reflected that there have been recessions we went through but we did not seem to affect us and we have been through two world wars. I feel rather sad that it has happened on my watch.

David Hemmings of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6866. Picture: Terry IfeDavid Hemmings of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6866. Picture: Terry Ife

"There's no-one in the family to take it on."

He recalled how the business began to expand at the end of the 19th century when his great-aunt Eve Coles began to introduce knitting and haberdashery items into the shop.

The family firm, which is one of the oldest in the area, specialised in fabrics for crafts, curtains and upholstery as well as homewear and clothing.

Passed through the family, it was during World War Two that Mr Hemming's father Alan, took over shop after marrying Mary Coles. During the 1970s the family opened a second store in Silver Street specialising in clothing.

David Hemmings of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6860. Picture: Terry IfeDavid Hemmings of Coles in Ottery. Ref sho 25 19TI 6860. Picture: Terry Ife

Mr Hemmings, who has been with the business since the 1960s, added: "It fills us with a lot of regret in terms of the number of years we have been trading to say 'that's it'. It's come after a lot of heart searching.

"We are one of the many businesses that have fallen by the wayside. There is an importance now on Internet trading which we never really got into."

Also bidding a sad farewell is long-term staff member Jackie Parsons, who has been with Coles since she started as a Saturday girl 59 years ago. Her mother Mary, also worked at the shop for 40 years.

She said: "I absolutely love it. I love all my customers, they are my friends. I would come here after school and get off the bus from Honiton and I would come in and do all the odd jobs. It is sad to see the shop go."

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