Award winning Felixstowe card shop celebrates its 70th anniversary

Owner of The Card Centre in Felixstowe, John Barratt, with (left to right) Anna Tink, Joyce Rust, A

Owner of The Card Centre in Felixstowe, John Barratt, with (left to right) Anna Tink, Joyce Rust, Annie Peachey, Imogen Tink, Janet Jones, Helen Clarke, Linda Dee. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Thought to be the oldest of its kind in Suffolk, a card shop in a seaside town is celebrating its 70th year.

John Barratt with his 2012 award for Greeting Card Retailing Award trophy, or RETA, for 'Best Indepe

John Barratt with his 2012 award for Greeting Card Retailing Award trophy, or RETA, for 'Best Independent Card Retailer in East Anglia'. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Owner John Barratt inherited The Card Centre shop in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe – his family having run the premises since his grandfather ran a cafe in the building in the early 1930s.

The Card Centre is now thought to be the oldest family-run business in the town centre.

Mr Barratt said: “Mum’s parents, Edith and Harry Bailey, came to Felixstowe in 1934 from Ugley, near Bishop’s Stortford in Essex. They set up a business where the Card Centre was, then called ‘The White House Café’.

“My grandfather died in 1942 as a result of health effects of being badly gassed from the First World War. My mother, Mercia, was 16 when he died; she and her sister Peggy took over the running of the business.”

Owner of The Card Centre in Felixstowe, John Barratt, Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Owner of The Card Centre in Felixstowe, John Barratt, Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The café ran until 1947 before it changed to a sweets and tobacconist’s shop. Cards were introduced in the late ’50s, and the shop was all cards by 1964.

Mr Barratt said: “I started working here in 1976. First, we all ran it together, me and my mum and dad. My dad retired in the late ’80s, but my mum wouldn’t retire. Many of the customers still remember her sitting on her stool behind the till.”

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John’s mother died in 2005, and since then he has run the Card Centre himself with huge success.

It offers thousands of different greetings cards, particularly art cards, from more than 100 different suppliers; including all of the best-known brands, as well as lots of smaller, independent, specialist and local card makers.

Life in the shop though is not without its funny moments.

He said: “A lady came in and asked for a card with a picture of a guinea pig on it. When I found one, she said it was no good because it was male and she wanted a female! We couldn’t believe it, because you could only see the head of the guinea pig.

“Another customer went and researched it, and, apparently, it’s all to do with the size and shape of the head and ears.”

Talking about the store’s popularity, Mr Barratt said: “We have a lady who comes regularly from Guildford to buy cards here, and lots from Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds and Colchester.

“The secret of success is choice, personal service and keeping the costs reasonable. We will spend time hunting for cards the customers want – and we have lovely staff.”

John said he felt “deeply honoured” when he won the prestigious Greeting Card Retailing Award trophy for ‘Best Independent Card Retailer in East Anglia’ at the Dorchester Hotel in London in July 2012, paying tribute to his many loyal customers and staff for their continued support over the years saying that “the award was as much theirs as mine.”

The Card Centre is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm. Visit the website for more information.