LEGENDARY Bridlington business Ernest Whiteley & Co celebrates its 110th anniversary this Saturday.
The shop has almost certainly weathered more economic and social storms than any other in the town since it opened in 1901 and its traditional clothing and drapery continues to be a hit with visitors from across the country.
Owner Ann Clough, grandaughter of the shop’s founder Ernest, has worked at Whiteley’s since she was a child and says that after more than half a century in the business, she still loves what she does.
“I still enjoy it, at the age of 78 I shouldn’t be working - and I wouldn’t be if I didn’t enjoy it,” she said.
“The thing I love most about the job is the customers, you can’t work in a shop if you don’t like people.”
Miss Clough said that Ernest Whiteley & Co has become a real hit with visitors keen to take photographs of its traditional wares and fixtures, and she is often told that there isn’t a shop like it in the whole of Yorkshire.
“People come from all over to see it,” she said, “I get great support from people from West Yorkshire but I do wish more local people would support us.
“I have lost count of the of the number of people who want to come in and take photographs.
“They even take photographs on their phones!
“Photographs of our shop have gone all over the world.”
Miss Clough has officially worked in the shop for 51-years, but she spent many happy hours there as a child when her grandfather lost his sight and she used to lead him around the shop.
She says she has seen many changes in the town and in the industry and there is certainly no-one who can pull the wool over Miss Clough’s eyes when it comes to knowing her bodices from her bloomers.
“There have been an enormous amount of changes and yet some things are just the same,” she said.
“I had an appointment last week with a linen rep showing us ranges of chair back tapestry as if they were something new.
“I said, ‘I bet you in the last 110-years there hasn’t been a time Whitley’s has not had a tapestry chair back in the shop’.”
Miss Clough also points out that whilst some items have been consigned to the history books, such as laced front and back corsets, some are still flourishng under different names.
She said: “We’ve done wyncette pyjamas since we opened, but now they’re called ‘brushed cotton’ even though it’s exactly the same thing.
“You get teenagers wearing them, right through to women in their nineties.
“It’s the same with interlock nighties but they’re now called ‘knitted jerseys’.
Whiteley’s has an obvious appeal to the older buyer, but Miss Clough is keen to stress that there is something for everybody inside.
She said: “We have rails of dressing gowns, the shop is not just for those aged 65-upwards, people think that there’ll be nothing for them but I would say they should come in and see.”
The shop’s anniversary month has been slightly marred by two break-ins over the last few weeks, which Miss Clough described as ‘very disheartening’.
The burglaries cost the shop £500, and Miss Clough, who often donates to good causes said she would rather have given that money to charity.
Despite the burglaries, and the recent economic turmoil which has seen many Bridlington businesses struggle, Whiteley’s remains a beacon of good old fashioned service and has rightly become a treasured part of the very fabric of the town.