Family piano shop founded in 1887 is leaving the city

Cookes Piano store is leaving the city centre

Cookes Piano store is leaving the city centre for good - Credit: Cookes/ Millers Music

After 134 years a famous Norwich shop is quitting the city — and pedestrianisation is to blame.

Cookes Pianos — founded by Arthur Cooke more than a century ago — has announced it is leaving St Benedict's Street, and Norwich, for good.

The stalwart business, which was bought by Millers Music in 2016, will be relocating to Miller's Sussex Street site in Cambridge.

Simon Pollard, managing director of Millers Music, at his store on Sussex Street in Cambridge

Simon Pollard, managing director of Millers Music, at his store on Sussex Street in Cambridge - Credit: Millers Music

Managing director Simon Pollard said: "The driving force behind the move out of Norwich is the changing demands of retail. The lease at the back of the property in Norwich came up and, after taking stock of everything, we decided not to renew it.

"This means we can focus on the Cambridge site in the meantime and turn it in to an amazing store experience. We sell the kind of things you can't get online."

In fact, Mr Pollard said there may even be plans to leave Cambridge city centre at some point, and relocate further in to the city outskirts, if business rates continue to race upwards.

Long-time employee Oliver Finn said it wasn't yet clear exactly when the St Benedicts Store would close and that it currently remains open for appointment-only.

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

He said: "What's happened is that the pedestrianisation of the street made things really difficult for us.

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"We lost the car parking spaces on St Benedicts, the Toys R Us car park and the Westwick Street car park, which has become a walk-in testing centre.

"Footfall dropped massively and it wasn't conducive to having our shop there as a showroom."

But on a positive note, Mr Finn said the arrangement "might not be permanent".

He added: "Ideally, we don't want to leave Norfolk forever, but in the future may come back and find an out-of-town unit with much better car parking facilities."

Mark Hedge, business manager of Cookes on St Benedicts Street in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Mark Hedge, business manager of Cookes on St Benedicts Street in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2021

Mark Hedge, who owns Cookes Band Instruments — a separate branch of Cookes founded by Arthur Cooke's nephew in the 1960s, and based on the same street — said he was gutted to see the piano shop go.

"It's sad when any business moves on", he said. "But especially this one."

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