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Photo Gallery: Norwich opticians Coleman's through the years

PUBLISHED: 12:41 09 October 2012

Taking over at long established Coleman Opticians on St Augustines Street, Norwich Helen Hillis and Katie Fenn with previous owners Lester and Alison Fish and original owner Peter Coleman, centre. Photo: Steve Adams

Taking over at long established Coleman Opticians on St Augustines Street, Norwich Helen Hillis and Katie Fenn with previous owners Lester and Alison Fish and original owner Peter Coleman, centre. Photo: Steve Adams

It is a shining example of how a long established and independent Norwich business can survive and flourish - even in troubled times.

So many famous city names have gone forever. Either been swallowed up by a multi-national or forced to close.

But others take on the challenges thrown up by the 21st century and one company with a clear vision of the future is Coleman’s, the opticians in St Augustine’s – one ancient city street which is looking better than it has done for many years.

The company has been run in recent years by the popular husband and wife team Lester and Alison Fish but now they have stepped aside and handed over the reins to Katie Fenn and Helen Hillis who have both worked at the practice for a number of years.

“We know the future is in good hands,” said Lester. Both he and Alison will be staying on as employed optometrists.

It is great to think that two young mothers, professional women are now business owners creating a real successful story in Norwich and safeguarding the future of 17 families.

The business emerged from what was DeCarles, a well-known Norwich manufacturing and dispensing chemists, famous for its “Lungene” cough medicine and lemonade crystals.

In the 1940s William Coleman, a pharmacist joined the business and, as was common in those days, branched out into optics opening an opticians next door at No 9 St Augustine’s.

Peter Coleman qualified in 1966 and joined his father running the opticians as well as a photography shop at No 7. When his father retired he closed the chemists, moved the opticians into 9-11 and sold 7 to Ashworth’s the bakers,

Alison joined in 1979 followed by Lester in 1981. The business expanded and they bought it in 1998.

Helen joined as a post graduate optometrist in 2000 with Katie joining four years later.

The practice now serves more than 60,000 patients and the change of ownership was celebrated at a gathering last week attended by the Lord Mayor of Norwich Ralph Gayton.

He congratulated the new owners saying: “In these days of big conglomerates taking over local business it is good to see a local firm continuing to operate under local ownership and keeping its identity.”

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