PUBLISHED: 16:16 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013
The future's looking rosy for the riverside town of Tewkesbury. Words by Katie Jarvis. Photography by Jules Beresford
When Jack Jennings was looking for a place to set up a new carpet business in 1960, Tewkesbury was a no-brainer. Beautifully placed for travel (and with motorways about to start popping into existence all over the place), the town was expanding its boundaries with new housing estates. Fitted carpets were much in demand.
If Tewkesbury has changed over the years, then so has JW Jennings. Today, it's Afghan not Axminster for which the business is famous, for they diversified: they're now known for their fantastic stock and specialist knowledge of Oriental rugs.
"People are surprised to find us in a town like Tewkesbury," agrees Jack's daughter, Clare, managing partner in the business. "A lot of people say they might have expected to see us in Cheltenham on the Promenade.
"We get people coming from all over to visit us, with quite a number from London. And because people have travelled to get here, we can often recommend other places within the town, perhaps for lunch. The nice thing is that when I go into those shops myself, they always thank me for sending people in."
Interestingly, back in the '60s there would have been far fewer places to recommend. The range of shops Tewkesbury offers is far more varied than 40 years ago. One of its most recent coups was to attract a branch of M&S 'Simply Food' to the High Street. While the arrival of chain stores can be a double-edged sword, few would argue against this specialist outlet that has brought even more people in.
Nickie Philipson-Stowe has run The Orange Pig children's wear store in the High Street for 30 years. As an active member of the town's chamber of commerce and industry (and as a shopper herself), she's delighted a new butcher and a greengrocer have opened in the town recently.
"There's definitely a positive feeling in Tewkesbury," she says. "People are looking on the bright side and smartening up their shops. We did have a very difficult time during the flooding but we are over it and pulling ourselves up again. On the positive side, it showed how people can rally together and, in a way, it did put Tewkesbury on the map.
"What we find is that once people come and shop here, they keep on coming back. We hear time and again from customers: 'I love coming because of the personal service'. They could simply go to one of the big shopping centres, but they don't. They know that we are here to help them, and that's what they value about Tewkesbury."