A Chester newsagent which opened almost 230 years ago closed its doors at the weekend – ironically on Small Business Saturday.
Hilary Wright, who owned Mountford’s in Northgate Street with son Patrick, accepts newsagents are struggling across the country but says the relocation of the bus station proved the last straw.
She says other Northgate Street shops are shutting, including Moss Electronics, which has ‘closing down’ signs in the window.
Mrs Wright, who lives in Newton , said: “My son and I have owned the business for the past eight years but my son worked there prior to that. It’s been a steady down turn in trade over the years and what finished us off was the bus station moving. Several other businesses in Northgate Street are also going.”
Mrs Wright says newsagents are a ‘dying trade’ so the relocation of the bus station may well have hastened an inevitable demise. Other newsagents had gone from Watergate Street and Cuppin Street in recent years although she believed chains like WH Smith would probably survive. Another factor was the opening of Tesco Express in Delamere Street which had proved a tough competitor in terms of general sundries.
“I’m not too bad because at 59 I can be at home but my son is 30 and without a job and we had one member of staff too,” added Mrs Wright, who has not had ‘one penny back’ towards the £100,000 personal loan she made to the business. Her son had taken a wage but had to work 80 hours per week.
Mountford’s was among a diminishing number of newsagents still delivering with customers including the Chester Chronicle, Chester City Club, city centre lawyers and older residents of Sarl Williams Court in Garden Lane, who took milk as well as newspapers.
“People have been on the phone asking ‘How are we going to manage?’” added Mrs Wright, who has written to Chester MP Chris Matheson about the desperate trading situation in Northgate Street.
She commented: “We closed on Saturday, which ironically was Small Business Saturday. The whole of Northgate area is completely run down now.”
The ‘one big plus’ had been the small business rates relief which had helped.
Above the shop is a sign that proudly states A Mountford, established 1790.
“It’s the oldest running business, apart from pubs, in the town, we believe,” explained Mrs Wright, who said the business had been up for sale but there was ‘no interest’. “That’s the really sad thing. We never wanted the place to close while we owned it. And unfortunately I don’t think the landlord will be able to rent it out because there are plenty available.”
She apologised to customers for having to close and thanked them for their loyalty as well as tourists who had continued to buy souvenirs.