Closure will end 120-year history for ironmongers
MORE than 120 years of serving townspeople with thousands of handy items is set to come to an end at Nailsworth Ironmongers.
Times are so hard that owner Gordon Pearce has been paying himself less than the minimum wage.
Reluctantly, he is winding down the shop for closure before December because he does not want to leave suppliers and customers in the lurch.
"The stock in here is worth between £13,000 and £18,000," said Gordon as he surveyed shelves of every conceivable home and garden item, stacked from floor to ceiling, over two floors.
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"Someone may or may not come in to buy an item but there has been a major downturn in footfall. People have less money.
"My income is 35% to 40% of what it was. In real terms, I'm on less than the minimum wage."
The main reasons for shutting are the loss of several wholesalers and declining customer spending but other factors have come into play.
His father Stanley has suffered a stroke and wants to sell up, the town branch of the HSBC bank has closed, red tape is on the rise and incidents, which are the subject of an ongoing court case in which Gordon and his staff are alleged victims, have helped him make his mind up.
The shop is steeped in history and tradition. Gordon prides himself on selling loose items rather than large packets which customers do not always need.
Gordon said the shop was built between 1880 and 1890 by the Mills farming family from Somerset and first traded as WO Waines.
The manager Claude Wilkins later took it on and ran it under the Waines name.
Then the shop was sold to Rocky Rhodes and, subsequently, John and Fern Bratby.
Gordon, a professional forester, was working for the MoD in East Anglia but wanted to head home to Nailsworth, where he was born.
So in October 1999 he became the new man behind the counter.
"People say they like to come in here just for the smell," laughed Gordon. "We like to have a laugh and a joke too. I've always thought about what it's like for the customer to come in, in other words, to put myself on the other side of the counter.
"A lot of our customers are elderly and we may be the only people they talk to all day."
He is proud to have seen many of his part-time staff go on and prosper, including students from Ruskin Mill college for young adults with special needs.
Gordon and partner Debbie Skells plan to be out before the start of December.
Forestry is likely to feature in his future career plans but he left his mark on the town in many ways, including fighting plans to bring in parking charges in Nailsworth.
"I just did the talking," said Gordon, who made a passionate and informed case to Stroud District Council last year.
"A lot of traders, Nailsworth Town Council and the mayor Steve Robinson put a lot of effort into the campaign, which changed people's minds."