'Green oasis' at the heart of the city was the 'perfect day out'

Exterior of Rapid Hardware's Pine and Garden Centre in Hanover Street, Liverpool city centre

A "green oasis" once at the heart of the city was for many the "perfect day out."

Founded in 1971, many will remember the days of Rapid Hardware in Liverpool. Gradually expanding across the length of Renshaw Street, it became one of the city’s retail landmarks.

The iconic family-run department store was famous for its DIY, garden and home improvement products. But some will also remember the days when it also had its own garden centre in the city centre.

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Located on Hanover Street, close to the bottom of Bold Street, the Rapid Hardware Pine and Garden Centre first opened in a former ELS furniture centre over 30 years ago in 1993. Through the years, many will remember heading to the garden centre, which stood out on the street for its size and bold green, yellow and red branding.

On June 25, 1993, a company spokesman said: "We have been listening to our customers over the years at Renshaw Street, where shoppers had to go up and down stairs in the garden department. So it was decided to move the department lock, stock and barrel.

Items on display at the Rapid Hardware Pine and Garden Centre in Hanover Street, Liverpool city centre
Items on display at the Rapid Hardware Pine and Garden Centre -Credit:TRINITY MIRROR/REACH CONTENT ARCHIVE

"In the new store, the goods can be displayed to their best advantage and the greatest convenience of the customer." One standout feature in the early days of the garden centre was the outside sun terrace.

On site, customers could buy anything from fish foods and bird houses right the way through to a £500 barbeque, as well as greenhouses, conservatories, sheds and summer houses. Images, recently unearthed from our archives show what Rapid's Garden Centre was once like.

Do these awaken any memories for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Unseen for years, you can see everything from the exterior to items and display and customers looking around inside. In 1999, the ECHO reported on the garden centre's big summer sale, describing the business, which was spread across four floors, as a "green oasis" at the heart of the city that was for many the "perfect day out."

On April 30, the article said: "It boasts one of the largest selection of garden pools and water features in the North West. There is also an extensive range of outdoor furniture - tables, chairs, gazebos, all at rock bottom prices."

On display in the late 90s, customers could find furniture by Allivert and some may also remember the pine furniture centre within the garden centre that offered a wide range of pine and wicker basket furniture and fittings. At the time, Rapid said: "Our adverts can only give a taste of the special bargains we have in store.

Items on display at the Rapid Hardware Pine and Garden Centre in Hanover Street, Liverpool city centre
Inside Rapid Hardware Pine and Garden Centre on Hanover Street -Credit:TRINITY MIRROR/REACH CONTENT ARCHIVE

"Our buyers have been scouring Europe and the Far East in search of bargains for our store. We have bought job lots and bulk purchases at incredible prices and our customers in Liverpool will reap the benefits."

But, after over a decade on Hanover Street, the department returned to Renshaw Street. In 2006, the ECHO reported how a deal had been negotiated between Grosvenor, the Council and Rapid regarding the Hanover Street premises, which was being incorporated into the Paradise Street project.

As for Rapid on Renshaw Street, it later moved into the the former George Henry Lee building. But in 2009, Rapid was hit hard by the recession.

It fell into administration in February 2013 after failing to agree a deal with its bank, Royal Bank of Scotland. The company reopened three months later in the same building under a different name, Rapid Discount Outlet, with many of its former staff and expanded its product range in the new discount store, but the company made losses in all three years of trading and closed in 2017.

Today, the buildings that were home to the original Rapid store on Renshaw Street now belong to a range of different businesses, from M Box Karaoke to Rudy's on the corner of Bold Street. In December 2022, Hardware Coffee & Kitchen was opened by husband and wife Callum and Rachel Scott, who wanted to offer a modern twist on the building's history.

In a nod to the building's past, their menu includes a Hardys Builders Butty, Hardys Tool Box breakfast and a DIY section, as well as favourites such as overnight oats, pancake stakes, French toast, eggs benedict and more.

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