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Just Fabrics in The Pentagon Shopping Centre in Chatham closes to make way for healthy living centre

An arts and crafts shop is closing down after serving customers for 40 years.

Kerry Shaw took over Just Fabrics, in Chatham, around 25 years ago from her dad John Francis but has had to make the difficult choice to shut up shop.

Just Fabrics will be closing at the weekend
Just Fabrics will be closing at the weekend

She said: “It has been a hard decision to close and turn my whole life into something else.

“I will have to start again. This was going to be my retirement, I always thought I would be here until the end, still serving people with my Zimmer frame.

“It is the end of an era for my family. Our amazing staff, Jenny Potts, Christine Appleby, Denise Eldridge, Hayley Coultrip and Jean Riley have supported us and shared their skills and knowledge with our customers.

“A lot of customers are friends. I know about their whole life. It is not just a job for us.”

Just Fabrics started as a stall at the former Chatham Market before it moved into a unit in The Pentagon Shopping Centre.

The store has been open for 40 years. Picture: Kerry Shaw
The store has been open for 40 years. Picture: Kerry Shaw

But as Medway Council, which owns the building, looks to transform the first floor into a healthy living centre, it has meant many businesses have had to move on.

Just Fabrics is one of just three businesses left on that level, along with Jesse’s Cafe and Chinese Herbal Centre.

Kerry added: “We wanted to stay but there were no good options. Although I was offered free rent for a period of time, I would not have been able to survive once that ended.

“I was forced into the position, like many businesses up here which have now closed. I was outpriced.

“It is a sign of the times. Everyone is buying online, I understand that but people are going to suffer, particularly the older generation who always come to the town to shop.”

Kerry said she searched for another unit elsewhere but it is not viable. Picture: Kerry Shaw
Kerry said she searched for another unit elsewhere but it is not viable. Picture: Kerry Shaw

The 54-year-old said she was offered another unit but the higher rent alongside the other bills was unaffordable so instead she started looking elsewhere in the county.

“I looked everywhere, Rochester, Whitstable, Margate, Chatham Dockside, I looked out of the area. I even looked at Sheerness High Street,” she added.

But despite the extensive search, Kerry has made the decision to close the family business.

Just Fabrics' last day will be on Saturday (October 21).

Staff member Jean Riley has been helping customers for years. Picture: Kerry Shaw
Staff member Jean Riley has been helping customers for years. Picture: Kerry Shaw

A Medway Council spokesperson said: “Our asset manager, Ellandi, and its retail property advisors have been working with Just Fabrics since last year to help try and find them a new location either on the ground floor of the Pentagon Shopping Centre, which is a prime location, or nearby. Unfortunately, this has not been possible and we understand they have made the difficult decision to close.

"It has been our ambition to bring a Healthy Living Centre and a small business innovation space into the Pentagon Shopping Centre to provide more local services for our communities and help revitalise the shopping centre. This is predicted to bring around one million more visits to the centre each year."

Plans to turn the shopping mall into a healthy living centre were first proposed in late 2021 but the future of the £10.3 million project is unclear.

When asked for an update on its progress, the council would only say the plans are still in their early stages.

According to a report from 2022, the project must be completed by March 31 next year.

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