Opening up!

Ashbee's Shop Front

Walking through Rye on this beautiful Tuesday morning to investigate social distancing in the local coffee shops before visiting with two friends, I happened upon an industrious person unpacking, cleaning and polishing a variety of rather interesting items. Fascinated by the large clocks already in situ on the walls of the shop, I realised I was outside Ashbees, erstwhile butcher and delicatessen and so on.

The clocks that caught my eye

I discovered I was in at the beginning of a new curiosity shop, called Ashbee 100 because of the amazing sign still above the front, nearing the process of opening in a week’s time. On enquiry, I discovered the lady unpacking was Imogen and emerging from the back, clutching beautiful brass window ledges, was Justin.

Imogen and Justin Smith moved to Rye from London a short while ago, with their two young children, saw a business opportunity in the empty Ashbees and went for it. Justin was in the middle of polishing the brass and renovating the lovely front windows. In addition, he had applied for planning permission to reinstate the shutters, of which one remains on the side of the building. Then the front will have been returned to its former glory.

The shop itself, even though being organised as I chatted to them, floors being waxed and all sorts of parcels unpacked, had all kinds of interesting things already in place. Justin took some pictures for me, due to dreaded social distancing, and I think they give a really good idea of the kind of shop this will be. I was so pleased to see another empty shop filled and with young and energetic owners.

As I continued my perambulations – and decided the most suitable venues for my coffee escapade- I went down towards the Strand, found myself outside what had been the travel agent and discovered yet another new business!  I didn’t go inside this one, as it had customers, but was fascinated by the little takeaway window. Good luck to Rae and the lifestyle coffee.

The town was reasonably full and the shopkeepers on the Strand said footfall was good and they were selling, particularly to the London market. Let’s just hope we don’t all get locked down again, and this very welcome revival continues, though in quite a specialised sector of the economy.

Image Credits: Justin Smith , Gillian Roder .


  1. Great to see Ashbee’s come to life again and especially the brass window sills Back in place. Good luck and welcome to Rye to Imogen and Justin and all the other new traders. The more of you the better for us all.


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