Back Southwold shops - retiring trader

PUBLISHED: 08:44 08 February 2008 | UPDATED: 19:40 05 July 2010

A TRADER has made an impassioned plea for more support to be given to food shops in Southwold after a fishmonger's business closed after trading in the town for 110 years.

A TRADER has made an impassioned plea for more support to be given to food shops in Southwold after a fishmonger's business closed after trading in the town for 110 years.

John Huggins has run John's Fish Shop, in East Street, for the past 25 years during which time he has won numerous national awards and accolades.

But on Saturday he closed the doors on his premises for the last time ending a tradition in the town that went back to 1898.

Mr Huggins admitted he was sad at not selling the business as a going concern and believes the changing face of Southwold played a big part.

“It is difficult to understand why a thriving business like this should not be able to find a purchaser to continue as a traditional fishmonger's shop but, putting myself in the position of a potential buyer, I believe I have the answer.

“Southwold is changing fast, it is easy to see that we have too many holiday homes empty in some cases up to 48 weeks of the year and so many of those holidaying in them, arriving with their shopping in the car,” he said.

Mr Huggins continued: “Some residents can also be blamed when we see the supermarket giants delivering to their door. It is clear the local shops are losing that trade. If I could leave this shop with one message to the people of this town it would be look after and use the food shops we have left; we could easily lose them too.”

Originally the shop had been built to sell both fish and meat and the sign “Licensed Dealer in Game” can still be seen above the front door.

In its early days the shop traded under the name D B Osborne and then S J Dunton until 1943.

The Cook family traded there from 1943 until 1980, followed by Pat and Pauline Sampkin as “Sole Bay Fish” from 1980 to 1982.

Mr Huggins then took over the premises and traded as “John's Fish Shop” for nearly 26 years until he decided to retire from running the shop full time.

The premises have been sold but the new owner has said it will not be operating as a fish shop.

During his time at the shop Mr Huggins received many accolades including being one of just 200 fishmongers in the country to be awarded the Seafish Industry's Quality Award in 1987. He went on to win 13 successive awards of this kind until government cuts forced the industry to abandon the scheme.

Mr Huggins was also delighted to be listed as one of television chef and fish expert Rick Stein's food heroes in 2002.

“Our last trading days were particularly sad with so many of our customers bringing cards, messages of thanks and best wishes.

“Some even brought their cameras for a final picture of the last fishmongers shop in Southwold,” he said.

Mr Huggins said fresh fish was still being sold from huts close to the harbour and he wished the traders there every success for the future.

He is looking forward to spending more time with his family and will continue his role with the RNLI at Southwold.

“My staff and I wish to thank all our customers most sincerely for their support over the last 25½ years and offer our best wishes to them all,” he said.

Are the traditional shops in Southwold being lost and if so is there a solution? Write to Postbox, The Journal, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB or email

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