Dimond’s: at the heart of Honiton since 1888

PUBLISHED: 10:06 27 August 2008 | UPDATED: 22:15 15 June 2010

A MAINSTAY of Honiton High Street will change forever on Friday, September 5, when A Dimond and Co vacates its prime retail site, opposite St Paul s Church.

A MAINSTAY of Honiton High Street will change forever on Friday, September 5, when A Dimond and Co vacates its prime retail site, opposite St Paul's Church.

After 120 years of being at the heart of the town centre, the family business will say goodbye to its newsagent and book trade and instead concentrate on stationery and photo frame sales, along with a photocopying service.

It will operate from premises accessed at the side of the shop front and has leased the High Street retail unit to another business.

As A Dimond and Co adapts to meet 21st Century customer demands, the Herald asked owner Anthony Dimond, 58, and his predecessor, father Arthur Dimond, 84, to chart the history of the business.

Dimond's is the affectionate name given to the shop by its customers over many generations.

Arthur's grandfather, Robert Dimond, established the business, which included a printer's, at 74 High Street, in 1888 after buying it from his former employer, a Mr Knight, when he retired.

"I never knew my grandfather, because he died before I was old enough to remember him," said Arthur.

"My grandmother, Eliza, took the business over. There were 10 people working for the printing business and she ran the shop and brought up five children at the same time. She was a very, very active lady."

Arthur's father, Archie, and aunty (Archie's sister), Annie, both worked for the business - Archie on the printing side and Annie in the shop. They eventually took over the business and ran it until 1946.

Arthur Dimond, who served in the RAF during the Second World War, returned to Honiton to run the business in 1946.

He served on the town council for 11 years, becoming mayor in 1982 and was president of Devon County Bowling Association in 1987.

Son Anthony, who was working as a science teacher in a secondary school after graduating from university, was asked if he wanted to take over the business in 1984.

"I came back and dad stayed on in an advisory capacity for three years," he said.

"The major change was that the printing business was sold off. We concentrated on the newsagent's and stationery sales. The shop has doubled in size since 1984.

"We have now leased the shop to a regional company that has shops in the Midlands and Wales. It trades under different brand names, but sells clothes."

Anthony stressed: "I am the owner of the property and I'm merely leasing it to them.

"A Dimond and Co will remain on the premises, moving up the alleyway to the side of the building.

"We are going to continue with a full stationery shop and also concentrate more on delivering stationery to local businesses."

Anthony says: "We will not being doing newspapers any more. I've had enough of early mornings!

"Although the High Street shop will close on September 5, it will re-open at the side of the building on September 8. The new shop tenants will take the keys on September 12 and will probably start trading early in October."

Chris Warren, Dimond's manager, will continue in that role, assisted by Anthony, as the business reaches out to commercial clients and continues to serve shoppers.

Geoff Hooper and two, part-time workers, Sheila Cockram and Julie Williams, will remain with the firm but, unfortunately, there will be some redundancies, Anthony revealed.

"All the staff, with the exception of two, have been with us for at least eight years and one for more than 30," he said.

"The people of Honiton have been extremely loyal to our business over the years. They have contributed to the success of the business.

"It is a family business and I think we have been successful because of that and I hope it continues.

"One of the reasons that I want to continue is that I hope my son will take it on."

Dimond's was once a major outlet for toys in Honiton and even boasted a Santa's grotto at Christmas.

Today, it is popular with those who need photocopying and stationery. Services include printing from memory sticks and emails - things that will continue from the new premises, along with sales of photo frames.

Niche parts of the business are to be taken over by Honiton Toy Shop (helium balloons) and The Paper Shop (including serviettes and cake decorating items).

Although many will mourn the loss of A Dimond and Co from its pivotal place in the town centre, Anthony and Arthur both hope the business will remain where it has always been - at the heart of the community.

Watch this space to find out who has leased the shop.

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