Cordeners to reopen!



By Sarah Curran

A NEWTOWNARDS business, devastated in a fire almost four months ago, is preparing to reopen.

Cordner’s shoe store was destroyed in the blaze on March 8 which sparked a massive response from the Fire and Rescue Service as the early morning blaze looked like spreading to adjoining businesses.

Fifteen weeks after the fire forced the closure of the long-established business, the owners are preparing to reopen in a temporary location, albeit in a temporary location at the former Northern Bank premises on Regent Street.

Owners Janice and David Robinson said they are looking forward to welcoming customers to the temporary shop. The pair are planning to ‘soft-launch’ their opening on Monday, with more reopening events in the pipeline.

While they are delighted to once again be trading in Newtownards, they do have plans to move back to their Conway Square location, with hopes of having it re-built in around 18 months.

Speaking about the day of the fire, Janice recalled getting a call at 6.30am, informing her of a fire at the shop, which has traded as a shoe shop for over 100 years.

She said: “I was in absolute shock. My husband, David, took the call and he rushed over as I had the kids and the dog. I followed over about 20 minutes later.

“We both live in Belfast and saw the fire as we drove down the carriageway. We could see the flames on the horizon and that was the most traumatic part.”

Surrounded by her staff and fellow business owners, including neighbouring affected businesses Cafolla’s and Anderson’s Pharmacy, Janice said she stood in shock as she watched her building of 20 years go up in flames.

“We just watched it burn,” she said, adding that they had just received their entire summer stock.

“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time because it was the start of a season,” Janice added.

With the Conway Square location burnt to the ground, Janice and David walked around the town that day to look at rental properties, hoping to get trading as soon as possible.

Janice explained that it took longer than they hoped to find a suitable building, pointing out that shoe shops required a building with plenty of storage.

“With clothing, all your stock is on the floor with very little in the back but with shoe retail it is the opposite, with all the stock in the back and very little on the floor,” she said.

Having spied the old Northern Bank premises on Regent Street, the owners set about repainting and getting a shop-fit installed, as well as ordering some stock – and they are currently storing some shoes in the old bank safe in the building.

Janice said they were keen to get trading in Newtownards again, particularly for their loyal customers.

“We just wanted to keep the trade in the town for our loyal customers who have, weekly, travelled to our Ballymoney store, which has been so lovely,” she said.

She continued: “The shop owners and the customers and the public have been overwhelmingly supportive and wishing us back.”

With their sights on opening their doors to customers on Monday, Janice said their main focus would be back-to-school wear, with winter shoes starting to make their way into the store.

“We are going to have our biggest and best ever winter selection and our back-to-school will be as big as ever,” she said.

Speaking about future plans for the Conway Square building, Janice said they were currently focusing on getting their new location up and running.

“There is a lot involved in getting this up and running. We are in the procedure of finding architects and structural engineers – the list is endless,” she said. “The timescale for that building will hopefully be 18 months.”

Speaking to her loyal customers, Janice said: “Thank you very much for supporting us through these hard times and we are excited to see you on our return.”

Janice also praised her ‘hard working’ staff members who have been working in the background to get the new premises ready for opening.

With opening celebration events planned for the future, Janice encouraged customers to keep an eye on their social media channels for more information to come.