Reader saddened at loss of local, wonderful shops

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SIR - I am truly saddened that E. J. Cassells, one of the best gift shops in North Antrim, is closing down. I got my shopping trolley there (best wheelie ever that beats carrying bags hands down) and most of my cookware, glassware and special gifts.

They are not the only one’s. Tweed’s ... where I got all my husband’s dapper outfits is gone too. Davy could size a person up just by looking. I got an amazing Tweed coat with gold lining and pockets trimmed in red. Buttons that could only have been hand made. I adore it. Davy picked out a cap that complimented it perfectly. Mr McGinn of the Europa Hotel in Belfast admired my outfit very much and asked where I found such great quality attire (James is a connoisseur of proper gentleman’s fashion) and todays dapper women knows a classic outfit from a particularly specialist source too.

But it’s much more than that ... It’s a joy, an experience where one feels special.

Not the BOGOF that is thrown in the bin. Really good quality products that last a lifetime whether its a pot and pan or a well cut suit. Ballymoney’s retail businesses, once the backbone of Main Street are fading into history. After decades of service and wears that attracted shoppers from far and wide, our local retailers deserve a well earned retirement and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful and exquisite things I purchased and will always cherish.

It’s part voluntary I guess, but in my opinion, its also because small independent businesses are crippled by the extortionate business rates imposed on them. More and more small businesses throughout the province find they cannot afford to stay in business because they are being forced out by narrow minded politicians and Party Politics with no interest in helping promote the independent retailer. It’s been a struggle too far for the best of the best in Ballymoney. The pressure of Internet shopping has taken it’s toll but that’s not the true reason for the decline. Its an excuse that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. With a will there is a way to maintain our town centre businesses.

The thing is ... There are few politicians looking at the long term picture, which is fast becoming High Street ghost towns. I do not understand why the “powers that be” do not see this and do the right thing by lowering business rates. Its all very well throwing money at a lick of paint here and there and a few summer seats ... Not much good if the High Street is empty apart from charity shops.

I have shed tears at the loss of all our local, wonderful shops. My Aunt Annie and Sally, long time visitors to Ballymoney shopping trips from Portstewart, and many more folks from all over the world that come to our wee town for the NW200 and Joey & Robert Dunlop’s Memorial Gardens will soon have no incentive to go up the town to shop. All the diversity of products will be gone. Sad times indeed and worse to come no doubt ... Unless We the People take action by reading each and every Manifesto of each and every political party (and in particular the independents that are not bound by Part Policies) and vote with that information and knowledge and make a statement ...

Yours, Amanda Martin, Calhame, Ballymoney