Lee Louise Ltd has been trading at 70 Foregate Street for over 40 years . Occupying a timber framed grade 2 listed building originally constructed in 1571 and rebuilt in the 1940s, the shop’s motto is “Selling Beautiful Things to Beautiful People”.
Team member Julie, the current custodian of the shop told us the building was hit by a stray bomb during WW2. “It didn’t go off, thank goodness. We were informed by a gentleman who called in one day, he did tell us that he had a newspaper cutting, but we’ve never seen it. Apparently after bombing the docks at Birkenhead and Liverpool, the German bombers used the water tower in Hoole as their turn around reference point, jettisoning any unused bombs before heading back. No 70 has been Haswell’s tea room, and also was once an Optician” Haswell’s Tea rooms was used as a meeting place for the “Votes for Women” movement in the early 20th century.
The shop was opened in 1978 by Mr and Mrs Henderson on their return from living in Australia. Lee and Louise being the names of their two daughters. On their retirement, the shop was taken over by one of the suppliers, who kept it going for another 15 years, until 2010″ Julie, having worked at the shop as a Saturday sales assistant for both The Henderson’s and the subsequent owners decided to keep the shop going. She says , philosophically. “As long as people, enjoy it we’ll stay. I’ve chosen to keep the shop going until, people either stop calling in or I find someone else to pass it on to. Who knows what will happen in the future, how long is a piece of string.
The shop sells clothing and accessories, many of Fairtrade origin. “The same with gifts, silver jewellery, fashion jewellery, body jewellery, semi precious stones, geodes etc, cruelty free hair dye. Incense, oils, windchimes, sun catchers, lots more. There are things that we’ve been selling for 40 odd years, we have to make sure our bread and butter stock is always available, but also looking for new stock, before things become too popular. If that happens, stockists tend to flood the market, luckily we never order too much, just in case that happens. We try and order things for customers if we haven’t got what they’re after. Admittedly we don’t get everything right. Like everyone, we don’t claim to be perfect. Fashion goes in circles, like life. Trends you never thought you’d see again come around. One of my favourite things is to listen to people outside. Saying things like, “I got my dress for my 18th, 21st, Wedding from here.” Comments like that I really enjoy, teenage kids who aren’t into us. ( we’ll wait!) saying “I’m not going in there!” I love it!
With over 40 years of trade on a street dominated by large chain stores, many of which have subsequently closed, the shops enduring success is something to celebrate. “At some points in time it’s felt like hanging on for dear life. The worst time being when good old Woolworths closed. Thank goodness for Primark taking residence, if it wasn’t for them being on Foregate Street I really don’t want to think of the consequences of them going. The other reasons for still being here after the effects of the Covid closures is a combined effort of the staff, that work here. Having a very understanding Landlord, Chester Council, and the furlough scheme.
“Foregate Street is looking good despite the fact that a lot of shops have gone. We’ve had the pavements renewed, the porta loos when the races are on have been a welcome addition too. Chester Bid have included us in lots of their activities, such as treasure hunts at Halloween and Christmas. A great honour, was being given the cutest Monster for their Monster hunt a few years back. Monika, one of the City’s Ambassadors always pops in to say hello. We love her visits. It’s not been easy at all, we thought it was the end of us when Cheshire Oaks opened, Internet shopping has obviously altered footfall too. We remember having queues at the till all day, now people queue to get in as we’re quite small and can’t have too many in. We’ve adapted by having a website, we engage in FB, Instagram and recently Tik Tok, much to my amusement. Our newest and youngest member of Staff signed us up for that and it’s had a huge response. ”
Proud to be in Chester, Julie says “Chester is so special as it has a wealth of history. Voted for time and time again as being the best place to live for instance or one of the happiest places. The North West is the best!” With the high street continuing to evolve , Julie says that a reduction in business rates would be welcomed. ” When we received our rates bill for last year it was actually half of what we’d being paying previously. What’s going to happen when we get our next bill will be telling. As it will be for a lot of other businesses.
“Please call and see us, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. ”
Lee Louise are at 70 Foregate street