High Street stalwart Jill is shutting up shop

ONE Staple Hill’s best-known shops is set to close at the end of September.

Jill Barnes has run Staple Hill Stores for 21 years.

The hardware, gardening and pet supplies shop on the corner of the High Street and Page Road is a lifesaver for householders who need help, advice and a vital part to finish a project or make a repair.

But with her pension age approaching, Jill has decided not to renew the lease and will shut up shop for the last time on September 30.

Jill took over the shop in May 2002, when it was on the other side of the road and specialised in pet supplies.

She had been working in commercial computer software technical support for more than 20 years, and was looking for a new venture due to changes in the industry.

Jill said: “I stopped outside the shop, saw the ‘for sale’ sign and thought ‘pets, DIY and gardening, I’m into those – maybe this is me’.”

Over the years the shop has branched out into selling hardware, decorating, electrical and housewares, as the demand for pet products was hit by out of town stores and the internet.

It is well-known for the huge variety of stock in its narrow aisles, displays of plants and garden supplies outside, and willingness to sell individual items.

Many customers drop in when they have an urgent repair or bit of DIY to do, and the shop has earned the nickname Arkwright’s, after the comedy Open All Hours.

Jill, who lives in Mangotsfield, was given a community award by the Staple Hill Partnership and Mangotsfield Residents Association in recognition of her work during lockdown, making deliveries until 9pm to customers who were isolating.

But she now wants to move to part-time work and cannot run the shop on that basis, and her assistant, who is already semi-retired, also wants to stop work this year.

Although some people had expressed an interest in taking over the business, none had followed it up with any definite offers.

Jill said it was going to be “very weird” not to open the shop each day.

She is looking for part-time work, and also plans to volunteer for the Somerset Badger Group.

Jill said: “I’ll miss the nice customers, some of whom are friends now – they make it worthwhile. They appreciate what we have to do to get the stock on to the shelves.

“Opening six days a week means I haven’t had a holiday since 2002. Luckily I’m not a big fan of them. I could never go and sit on a beach – I’d rather be at home doing things.”

Staple Hill Chamber of Trade chair George Georgiou said the closure of the shop would be “a really sad loss”.

He said: “Jill has been an asset to the High Street. If you can’t get something, she can find it for you.

“She’s also been involved in many of our meetings to boost trade.”

George said the closure comes at a time when footfall has dropped, with the High Street’s fruit and veg shop also closing.

He said: “We’re trying to get people to come and support our family-run businesses – if we don’t use them, we will lose them.”

Staple Hill & Mangotsfield ward councillor Michael Bell said: “Jill’s shop has been an institution for the past 21 years.

“Staple Hill will not be the same without her.

“On behalf of all those who have used the shop I would like to say thank you for looking after us for all this time, and providing such an important service.”