Clare’s department store
In the early 20th century, these premises were occupied by Arthurs Pioneer Stores. Arthurs was taken over by WS Williams of London House, Llanrwst, who also owned The Loyal Store on the opposite side of Mostyn Street. One of the shops’ features was the variety of serges and tweeds spun at Williams’ own factory in Dolgellau. These could be made up into whatever customers required – particularly boating, cycling and touring outfits for ladies. WS Williams also sold Mona Bouquet perfume, for which it was the exclusive retailer. This scent delicately perfumed the shop!
For one penny, children visiting the stores’ 1924 Christmas display were taken by electric lift to a cottage surrounded by dolls and through to Father Christmas’ Grotto.
In 1926 the shop was taken over by Robert Clare Baxter, who rebuilt it as the present Clare’s Modern Store. It became a ladies’ dressmakers and milliners. Born into a poor family in Runcorn, Robert had a Saturday job in a draper’s. One Saturday the owner came in and was impressed to find Robert busily tidying stock. He offered a full-time job as soon as Robert left school. Robert rose to be a buyer and manager for the firm. The owner bequeathed Robert £200, about £8,500 today, on condition he set up his own business.
The 1930s photograph of the interior of Clare’s shows James Hankers, who was responsible for dressing the windows. If you were asked to dress them while he was on holiday, it was considered a huge honour. Departments later included: china, cutlery & glass; kitchenware, electrical goods; fancy goods, furniture and carpets.
Robert died in 1950, aged 67. His grave is in the Great Orme cemetery. The business was continued by his son Dougie and grandchildren John and Ann. The store still has its cage lift. The Lamson pneumatic device, which whizzed payment by tubes to the cash office and sent back the change, was removed in 2002 when the store was taken over by Ulster Stores Ltd. The photo of the exterior with all the staff was taken in the 1960s.
With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society
Postcode: LL30 2PD
FOOTNOTES: Robert Baxter’s local achievements