Much-loved seaside store closing down after 30 years due to 'perfect storm'
- Credit: Chris Bishop
A much-loved seaside shop is closing down after more than 30 years.
Ivan Wolfe said a "perfect storm" of Covid, new technology and his lease ending had convinced him the time had come to close down Wolfy's in Hunstanton.
He opened the shop on Greevegate with his wife Maureen in 1987, after the couple realised how what was then cutting-edge technology was revolutionising home entertainment.
"In my late 20s and early 30s I became a market trader selling electrical goods like cassette recorders and TVs," he said. "That led to video recorders, which were around the £500 - £600 mark, so I sold them for so much a week and rented them.
"Once that took hold, it was obvious that people needed something to feed these machines with, tapes, so I got into the video rental business.
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"I used to rent films for a week at a time and it was very successful. Demand was high, so we thought we'd open a shop."
Wolfy's in Hunstanton led to shops in King's Lynn, Swaffham and Fakenham. As demand levelled off, the Wolfes decided to concentrate on Hunny and Lynn, investing heavily in minilabs to process customers' films as well as renting movies.
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The Wolfe's decided to close the Lynn shop in 2019 and took its best equipment to the Hunstanton store.
But as phones began to usurp cameras for casual photography, it was obvious more investment would be needed to keep up with the next big thing.
Despite this, the business did well in 2019. Then Covid hit.
"We thought we could sell the business but there is no business," said Mr Wolfe. "The only business is collecting furlough money and one day that's going to end.
"For me this is the right time to quit. I've gone by my sell-by date."
Mr Wolfe said Covid, the ending of his lease and Brexit had created a "perfect storm". Leaving the EU has pushed up prices for importing spare parts for the processing machinery, which is made in Germany.
Customers will miss Becky Backham - the shop's sole member of staff, renowned for her cheery smile and expertise with processing and printing.
"I'm not sorry I'm quitting, I'm looking forward to it now," said Mr Wolfe. "But I will miss some of the customers. We had regulars who used to come in just to get a photocopy of a gas bill or something."
Wolfy's reopens when lockdown lifts on Monday, April 12, for a closing down sale.