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The end of an era for Helston Clarks shoe shop staff

By West Briton  |  Posted: September 22, 2013

  • Longserving staff members at the Clarks shoe shop which is closing this weekend - Diane Williams, assistant manager Colin Parnell, and manager Betsy Baker.

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TWO staff will say an emotional goodbye to the shop in which they have worked for a combined 72 years – when it closed its doors for the final time yesterday.

It is the end of an era for Betsy Baker, the manager at the Clarks shop in Meneage Street, where she first worked at age 16 – some 48 years ago.

Colleague and friend Diane Williams has put in 24 years.

"I don't know where the years have gone," said Betsy.

Family business Goodenough Shoes, which also has Clarks franchises in Penzance, Falmouth, Truro, St Austell and Bodmin, said it is closing quite suddenly after negotiations over the building's lease failed.

The five staff at Helston have been offered jobs in the other shops. Mrs Baker said: "We had been told there were negotiations with the lease but you don't really believe it is going to happen. It's devastating really.

"Lots of people have been coming in and everyone can't believe it. It's been quite emotional."

She said she helped fit shoes for whole generations of families – people brought in by their parents who have returned with their own children.

She took a short break when she moved to Germany to marry Bryan Baker.

He was serving in the Army and they met as pen-pals.

"They'd promised me a job if I ever came back," she said. "So, that's what we did. I am from Helston you see, I was born here.

"Most people don't stay in jobs like that anymore.

"I've seen so many changes. The shop itself has changed and the Clarks brand has completely changed.

"The biggest difference is everything was so formal back then. It was 'Mr' this and 'Miss' that.

"Now it's much more casual and everything's done by first name."

She wished her staff all the best, adding: "It's been lovely."

Goodenough Shoes has owned the shop for the past three years, having taken over from Clarks, which had succeeded the company John Farmer.

Director John Goodenough said the decision had been difficult. "We were always hopeful we could get a new lease. It's all happened very quickly and we've got to a stage where we can't continue any longer."

"I had to make the unhappy decision to close. We do have great customer loyalty and great staff loyalty too.

"We thank everyone for their support over the years and thank our manager Betsy. I can't praise her enough."

The building is for sale.

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