After 20 years of trading on Rye’s High Street, Past & Present has closed for business. Run for the past ten years by Derick and Margaret Holman, the shop specialised in art nouveau, art deco and arts and crafts goods. When the “closing down sale” signs appeared in the window customers streamed inside – both to mourn the closure and to wish the Holmans well in their retirement, but also to grab a good deal: everything in the shop was sold at half the marked price tag. “Everything must go,” said one of the shop signs. And go it all did.
To the couple’s astonishment their stock vanished in less than a fortnight. “Even the shop till and shelving in the cellar went out of the front door,” Derick said.
“Originally we were thinking we would need to trade for four or five weeks to reduce our stocks to an acceptable level. However, we were completely overwhelmed by demand and cleared two and a half months stock in 13 days. Our team of girls who help us run the shop were practically run off their feet dealing with demand and the watery eyes of some who just wanted to express their feelings at the sad closure of Past & Present.”
He added: “Margaret and I have had 10 very happy years in Rye and were fortunate to have had such a great team of assistants and helpers, without whom the business would not have thrived as it did.”
During their stay in Rye, Margaret also practised as a chiropodist, and Derick held a number of directorships including The Rye & District Chamber of Commerce and Rye Bay Marketing. “The building has now been sold as an investment,” said Derick, “and we will be sad in many ways that it will not continue as a gift shop. Finally it has ceased selling presents and become the past.”
The couple are returning to their roots in East Anglia and are now doing “some very urgent house hunting”.
Of the five staff at Past & Present, two have found employment elsewhere in Rye and three have decided to follow the Holmans into retirement. To mark the store’s closure, the staff and spouses gathered at Rye’s Simply Italian for a celebration meal and presentation to mark the start of new lifestyles.
Derick said: “It’s been wonderful working with such committed people and good to know that those that wanted to work on are able to do so. Their departure needed marking not only with a meal but also a gift from Margaret and myself to say ‘thank you’ for being so supportive. No doubt we will all remain in contact in the future so that we can reminisce about the good old days!”
Photos: Derick Holman