Closing down sale for Harrogate's oldest shop which first opened nearly 200 years ago before Victorian times
The announcement of the closure of Harrogate’s oldest independent shop after 190 years may have come as a shock to the town but it’s a “natural decision” says the head of this renowned family-run jewellers.
When Fattorini first opened its doors in 1831, Queen Victoria was just 12-years-old but it isn’t age which has caught up with this famous name in retail - or the economic impact of Covid or the internet - it’s something more straightforward, says Anthony Tindall.
Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser in the shop’s premises at 10 Parliament Street as staff prepare it for a grand farewell sale which starts on Saturday, November 13, Mr Tindall said he simply wanted to retire.
“I’m knocking on 70 and I want to be able to enjoy a retirement properly and see more of my wife Hilary and family,” he said.
“It would have been nice to have made the shop’s 200th anniversary but that would have left me in the situation of being 80 years old.
“The decision to close the store has been incredibly tough, the business has been my life, but it’s been a natural decision to make.
“If one of the family had wanted to take on the business, that would have been fine, although it would have meant me still working during the handover, but no one did.
“Back in the 19th century you went into the family firm and that was it. But people have much more choice now.”
The great, great grandson of the man who founded Fattorini jewellers, Mr Tindall has taken changing times in his stride since returning from university to take over the business in 1976, with much of the same spirit of flexibility and hard work shown by his 19th century ancestor, who worked his way up from the bottom after arriving in Britain in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War.
“I understand that my great, great grandfather Antonio came to Leeds originally from Bellagio in Lake Como which may or may not have been in Switzerland at the time, which would make our roots Swiss strictly speaking rather than Italian, a bit like Bettys.
“We don’t know how he got here but the story goes that he started off doing anything to make a living, including at one time taking a mule up in the Dales offering his services to repair whatever anyone needed.
“Who knows, he may even have come to Britain by donkey!”
After moving to Harrogate during the reign of William IV just as the town was turning into a fashionable resort for wealthy visitors, Antonio Fattorini opened his first jewellers in 1831 on Regent Parade near the Crown Hotel.
The shop was called Oriental Lounge until Antonio’s own son, also called Antonio, took over the reins in 1859, renamed it A.Fattorini in 1875 and moved premises to Parliament Street in 1884.
Anthony’s side of the family, the Tindalls, came into the storyline in the 1900s when Antonio, who remained a bachelor, was joined in the business by his sister Maria and her husband John Tindall, who went on to inherit the business when Antonio died in 1912.
The family business tree has spread far and wide since those days to include Bradford and Skipton.
Despite an interest in engineering, Anthony had no doubts about joining the family business as a young man.
“I grew up in a family of six kids in Pool in Wharfedale. My father was from Knaresborough.
“I did engineering at Loughborough University; there’s always been an engineering bent in the family.
“I’m one of five brothers. Three of them chose 40 years ago or so not to go into the business. But when I graduated in 1976 I was happy to come back to join the family firm with my eldest brother.”
Much has happened in Harrogate’s rich history in the last 200 years or so but Fattorini’s has remained steadfast and true.
One thing that remained constant over nearly two centuries, something which Anthony remains proud of, is the shop’s ethos.
Almost from the start, this quintessentially Harrogate retailer has traded on quality.
The wording of the shop’s early advertisements in the Harrogate Advertiser have stood the test of time:
“Our aim is to sell goods of the highest quality, beauty and finish and to maintain the tradition of excellent service for all.”
There have been offers to buy Fattorini’s over the years, admits Anthony, but remaining independent he says has been the real key to the shop’s longevity.
“What has allowed us to focus on quality rather than just profit - which is the key to high standards - is the fact we have stayed a family business and stayed independent,” he said.
“That has meant we have never had an accountant ringing up from London saying your profits are down this quarter.
“I know our staff are saddened that the shop is closing but we are proud of them.
“In some ways they have been even more committed to high standards than I have and they haven’t been afraid to say so. It was hard to break the news to them but they have seen the journey I have been on in the last two or three years.”
Fattorini’s is looking forward to welcoming customers old and new when it reopens its doors on Parliament Street for a final closing down sale.
In keeping with its own pedigree, the shop will be bowing out in style with a 50% price reduction on all its jewellery - diamond and gold jewellery, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, earrings, coloured gemstones, pearls and engagement rings.
It’s the biggest sale in 190 years of Fattorini’s, says Anthony.
“I have loved my time in the business and am going to miss the customers, many who have been coming into the store for many years to purchase special and sentimental pieces.
“But we’re looking forward to welcoming customers old and new to our closing down sale, and many lucky buyers will walk away with extraordinary bargains.”
Now that an era is truly ending, Mr Tindall is eager to get on with a new beginning even if the feeling is a little bitter-sweet. Life post-Fattorini’s promises not only more family time but more time for his hobbies and passions.
More time for sail boats.
More time for classic cars.
A new life beyond the retail trade.
Even so, without the pandemic who knows what might have happened?
If Covid didn’t quite bring about this turning point for an icon of the Harrogate retail landscape and the town’s history, it certainly appears to have accelerated the process.
“I don’t have a sentimental way of dealing with these things,” he says. “I’m a Yorkshireman and I don’t like to complicate matters.
“People still wanted to buy jewellery and watches from us during lockdown and we managed to keep trading online even when our doors were shut.
“Once people could come back to shops again there was a good bounce back for the business, too.
“But I realised if you are not working four or five days a week there are so many other things you could be doing.
“I’ve been looking to retire for the last four or five years.
“The Covid lockdown has been the catalyst to get me going.
“It’s undoubtedly the end of an era for Harrogate and for our family.”
The closing down sale starts on Saturday at 10am at Fattorini's shop on Parliament Street in Harrogate town centre.
Life at the time of Fattorini’s launch in Harrogate: Notable facts and events in 1831
When Fattorini jewellers first opened its shop in Harrogate in 1831:
Harrogate had a population of 4,000 people;
The population of Great Britain was just 16 million;
The British monarch was William IV who died six years later in 1837 when he was succeeded on the throne by his niece, Victoria;
Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey (Whig) was Prime Minister of Great Britain;
The US president was Andrew Jackson at a time when the USA consisted of only 24 states;
In 1831, Charles Darwin embarked on his historic voyage aboard HMS Beagle from Plymouth to South America, New Zealand and Australia after graduating from Cambridge University;
The French Foreign Legion was founded;
Victor Hugo’s historical romantic gothic novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was published in Paris;
The Royal Astronomical Society received its Royal Charter in London;
Scientist Michael Faraday first discovered electromagnetic induction, which led to the invention of the electric transformer and generator;
Nat Turner led a rebellion by slaves in Virginia, USA, the only sustained slave rebellion in US history;
Sunderland became the site of the first outbreak of cholera in the UK which, ultimately, played an important part in the story of public health and civic improvement of this country.