Beloved Chelmsford shop Pope and Smith where Olly Murs got his school uniform closes after 70 years

Angela Price, co-owner of Pope and Smith stands holding a photograph of Colin Wade, her late partner and co-owner, in front of the sportswear he had a true passion for
-Credit: (Image: LauraFidler/ReachPLC)

After 70 years, Pope and Smith, a beloved uniform and sports specialist store in Chelmsford, has closed its doors for the final time. Angela Price, 67, co-owner of the store, had kept the store open after her co-owner and partner, Colin Wade, passed away in November 2021. His photograph sits pride of place on the counter by the till.

After his death, Angela continued to open the store in his honour, but following new guidelines for uniform contracts for schools, she says she has been forced into making the impossible decision to close. Schools can now choose their suppliers, under new guidelines, which has led to a drop off in business as the store was not chosen to continue with the schools it had been supplying uniforms for.

Angela said: "Losing the school uniforms was really a nail in the coffin. If we had the uniforms, we would be able to continue trading. It has really hurt”

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Closing down signs hang in the shop front in preparation for Saturday June 1, when Pope and Smith closes
Pope and Smith is due to close Saturday June 1

Colin had previously liaised with the schools in Chelmsford before his death in November 2021. She added: “That’s the only reason I kept it, because I wanted it to go on for him. But I have him now in the back of my head saying ‘what are you doing? You’ve got to give up now before you make yourself really ill'.

“In trying to save the shop, I had to let my staff go in January. It’s got to a point now where my health comes first. Cutting staff is not what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have any option. It was a case of make or break. It’ll be a very sad day when I walk out of the door, and have to shut the door for the final time”.

When speaking of her loyal customers, Angela said: “So many people have come in today so upset because they don’t have anywhere to go to get their specialised sportswear. People around here are not going to have anywhere to go now, which is really sad.

“We have a community here. People don’t necessarily come in to buy something, they might also come in to have a chat. It’s so lovely. They are the people that I will miss. They really looked after me after Colin passed.

Pope and Smith, had served the area for many years and even provided Olly Murs with his school uniform. Angela said: “It’s really sad when people say to me this is where their grandad used to get their school uniform. That’s what upsets me, you’re going back generations. It’s not just now, it’s generations.

“People came here because they knew that what they were getting was good quality, and the people who worked here had a good knowledge of everything. People trusted that they could come into the shop and get a good understanding of what they needed to buy. Colin was so knowledgeable about cricket and tennis. It was unbelievable. Those were his sports, and cricket was really his passion. He was something special.”

The other staff in the store were equally knowledgeable, with Angela stating: “When we were doing uniform, parents would come in with their children standing there and you knew instantly what size they needed. We got to put children at ease who were nervous about going to secondary school. We took pride in that. You could see the children come in with fear on their face, and go out smiling, which was lovely for us”.

The last remaining sportswear on sale before Pope and Smith closes
Pope and Smith is due to close Saturday June 1

The store will close, but Angela will still be helping locals with their sportswear needs. She added: “I will be helping David down the street with his running shop and spending time with my children. I’ll go and see my daughter who lives in Staffordshire. I want to spend time with my family and my grandchildren.”

Even though Angela is moving on to new pastures, she adds: “It’s not going to be easy walking past this shop, not knowing what’s going to happen to it. The whole place is full of memories. The memories here are of Colin; we have lots of happy memories here”.

The whole shop was a family affair, as Angela’s young granddaughter came to work with her during the school holidays. Angela said: “She thinks of Pope and Smith as granddad's shop, she will be broken-hearted when I tell her that it’s closed now”.

While her granddaughter will be broken-hearted, Angela’s children are “over the moon, because they worry about me. They know that I eat, sleep, and breathe this shop. I haven’t had time to grieve for Colin because there’s always been something going on here. It’s my time now to go and do a bit of healing on my own”.

Angela posted a Facebook message to her loyal customers on Wednesday, May 15 stating “Our customers are the very best, you have all been so amazing since Colin passed away, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is now time for me to retire and take time for me and to start my healing process after Colin's death [...] Thank you all once again for your support. I will miss the chats with my regulars”.

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