Jim Parker: Top fashion store Maggie & Co closes doors after 48 years - but 'we leave on a high'
- Credit: Submitted
The doors are closing for the last time on one of Torquay's most iconic businesses.
Maggie & Co, the top fashion store which has brought a touch of class to the town for an amazing 48 years - 35 of them on The Strand - will be saying a final and sad goodbye to its loyal customers and supporters when it shuts on Saturday.
Maggie Williams, now 78, started the business and still runs it now with daughter Sarah, 51.
Sarah worked in the shop from the age of 16 and took over at the helm with mum 32 years ago. Her sister Sammy, 55, was also involved in running the business in the early years. And now Sarah's daughter Chloe Powell also works there.
Sarah says: “Three generations - it has been a family business through and through.”
She admits: “Saturday will be a really sad occasion. It will be the end of an era.” .
Ironically, the store has had its best ever year financially.
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Sarah says: “That is down to hard work and our amazing customers. We will be greatly missed by the Bay. We have had 300 messages from people to say how we brought glamour to Torbay."
One of them, Libby Ellis, got the Torquay sandman to do a special farewell sculpture on Torre Abbey Beach
Steve Holdup, of Torbay Display, has worked with Maggie & Co for years and like many will be sad to see them go.
He remembers: “The brand was created by Maggie 48 years ago in the shop Pink and Blue in Fleet Street . A few years later, it moved further down the road to Maggie at Peanuts, then on to the Pavilion, and finally The Strand .
"The business quickly established itself in retailing, the finest fashion houses in the country , Burberry, Armani, Hugo Boss, Jenny Packham, Mulberry, Ralph Lauren, Escada Sport, Marc Cain to name just a few.
“Maggie & Co is known throughout the South West as being the number one ladies fashion house. She took time to get to know her customer and take them on their journey of fashion and style. Loyalty to her customers and they to Maggie meant many became good friends.
“Many memories flood back of the magnificent fashion shows that took place at the Pavilion / Little Theatre and the Imperial Hotel, where almost £100 ,000 has been raised for the British Heart Foundation, Lung Foundation and, of course, Rowcroft Hospice.
“In recent years , Maggie’s daughter Sarah and a superb team have been the familiar faces with the everyday running of the business. Sarah is as much loved. “
He adds: “Maggie and Sarah and all the girls who have worked for the business over so many years – the biggest thank you for everything you have done for our town. Words cannot express how everyone really feels.”
The end of Maggies sees another gaping hole in the harbour landscape with the Debenhams stores. Boots and former HSBC Bank buildings all empty.
The Strand is an integral part of the plans to rejuvenate the heart of Torquay with £22 million from the government in Town Deal funding.
The council recognises that investment and improvements in such a prime area are long overdue.
Sarah recognises that the town has changed and it does have its issues but that is not for reason for closing and she would rather focus on thanking and saying farewell to her customers and the town.
She said: “Everybody has been fantastic. They are our Maggie family.”
Sarah adds: "I feel we have given a lot to the town and have dressed with the most beautiful clothes one can aspire to. There are people who have bought houses here because we have a shop here. It is about what we brought to the town. Glamour and style right to the end. We leave on a high."