LOVELY Lane will soon lose its charming clothing store that has traded in Warrington for more than 40 years.
Vic and Jill Crossland, married couple and owners of VC Industrial Clothing will lock up their beloved shop for the final time and say goodbye to all their loyal customers on in the new year, to begin enjoying their long-awaited retirement.
The pair, who live in Great Sankey, explained how it was their business partner, Simon Tudor, who voiced wanting to close up and retire at the end of the year, with Jill agreeing and Vic reluctantly nodding his head.
“Vic is 88 and I have told him that if we don’t do it now, he will die in this shop,” Jill said.
88-year-old business tycoon, Vic, first opened the shop on Winwick Street in the centre of town in 1981 after formerly owning a factory with two business partners in Leeds trading similar items of work wear, uniforms and army supplies.
“It was a big business back in them days, especially the army supplies, it was like printing money,” Vic said.
Vic explained how the factory became too ‘stressful’ to run, so he separated from the business he ran with his two friends, Andrew and Bill, and opened his own independent shop in Warrington, choosing the area as a perfect ‘middle’ location for him.
A few years into trading, Vic met Jill, 66, through mutual friends and the pair began to run the shop in Winwick Street together before moving to their current premises on Lovely Lane in 1993.
“When we moved to this site, we had to decide whether we wanted to grow and expand or stay how we were, and we decided to stay as a small family business and it has suited us fine,” said Vic.
“We have customers that are still with us after forty years, like The Old Rectory Nursing Home and Francis Transport in Northwich,” he added.
And the owner highlighted that he did not want to leave any of his loyal customers ‘in the lurch’ by closing, hoping to find them new ‘trusted’ suppliers before they ceased trading.
“We want to find suppliers for the people that have relied on us all these years, they have been so loyal to us. We would like to thank all our customers for their loyalty.”
While time has moved on quickly since the pair first began trading, the shop has stayed the same, with paper order forms stacked in trays and an old industrial sewing machine sitting proud in the centre which is still used for alterations and embroidery.
Jill explained how when she first locked eyes with Vic, 37 years ago, their friends had set them up on a blind date.
“When he first walked in the room, he was wearing an old cardigan that was hanging off him and I remember thinking, what could they possibly think we would have in common,” She laughed.
“But he can talk for days about anything, he can talk all the legs off a donkey never mind just the hind. And he has this ridiculous sense of humour. He’s always kept me laughing.
“The year after we first met, that March was a leap year, so I proposed to him,” Jill said.
Reflecting on how the business has had its peaks and falls throughout the decades, she said they have always been ’comfortable’ despite the business tackling two recessions and a pandemic.
“We had a few years where trade plummeted, but the pandemic actually brought us back up. Initially we closed, but then we realised people were still working and needed protective clothing, scrubs and uniforms, so we started trading again and buying PPE in bulk.
“We sold out of hospital scrubs within the first four weeks, and everything just took off again after that.” Jill said.
Jill expressed being ‘ready’ for retirement, unlike her other half who upon being asked of his feelings about closing the store said: “I feel terrible, I have not been looking forward to this.”
Simon, the third business partner, from Widnes, has worked at the shop for 27 years and has known Vic since he was 15 years old, but is now looking forward to his retirement and spending time with his five grandchildren.
He claimed the high-quality service that the shop provides as being the sole key to its longevity and success.
And naming some of the loyal customers who have kept coming back all those years, many local organisations were mentioned, including Rock Oil, Kay's Dairy, Penketh Fencing, Wade Deacon High School and St Rocco’s Hospice.
The shop will go up for sale within the coming weeks, but all three partners of VC Industrial have voiced that if anybody is interesting in taking on the business, they urge them to get in touch.