READER'S LETTER: A former Emporium employee shares fond memories of the Maldon High Street shop

By Paula Manning

11th Jul 2023 | Readers Letters

Graham and Mary Powell are set to retire after serving the people of Maldon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. (Photos: Mary Powell and Ben Shahrabi)
Graham and Mary Powell are set to retire after serving the people of Maldon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. (Photos: Mary Powell and Ben Shahrabi)

A former Emporium employee has shared her fond memories of the Maldon High Street favourite, which is set to close this month, and its owners Mary and Graham Powell.

Dear Maldon Nub News,

For reasons that are hard to decipher, I looked up Maldon High Street News this weekend. The reason this is so hard to decipher is that nowadays I live in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. After a little searching the news story, published by the Nub appeared featuring the search for a buyer for the Emporium and the owners, Graham and Mary Powell. Although I have never written to a newspaper before, here I am utterly compelled to do so.

I had the good fortune to work for Graham and Mary Powell in the 1980's. My job was a 'Saturday Girl' in Matthews Pet Shop, taken on by the Powells, just before they ventured into the Emporium, previously Wenlocks a little way down the street. My job was to serve the pet owners of Maldon with bags of treats for dogs, cats, and wild birds. Help them with new collars and leads for Fido and make sure the water in their goldfish bowl had the best conditioner. My cohorts were Joan and Jane, I believe Jane, another 'Saturday Girl' went on to be a doctor. At the time, the job to have on a Saturday was at Boots and a friend of mine had the white outfit they provided and prime position behind the counter. To my mind, I had the prime job and the prime bosses.

Wenlocks relocated further up the High Street before Mary and Graham Powell took over their old premises in 1993. (Photo: Ben Shahrabi)

When I left school after a year or so and got a job in Chelmsford working as a badly paid Civil Servant, I still persisted with my Saturday job at Matthews, I didn't really want to give it up. One rainy Saturday Graham called me into the back office/store/tea room, to tell me that he and Mary had decided to give me a pay rise. They had decided this because I really wanted to learn to drive and, despite the other job, I couldn't stretch the £225 earned a month to driving lessons. I was so touched by this and still am. Seeing a picture of Mary and Graham looking much the same as they did all those years ago (a fact I cannot claim!) and reading of the shutting of the Emporium and all the other good things they have achieved during their 30 year tenure made me think about this simple gesture that was one of the kindest of my life by any employer and meant so much at the time.

I do really hope a buyer is found soon, the Emporium was I think an afterthought in the Powells' retail aspirations that began with Matthews and the garden centre but, it seems, turned into the main event, it's silk flowers, kitchen equipment, boxes of bargains and voluminous bits and bobs we all needed and may not have realised we did, or did and were relieved to find them, being now, the stuff of legend.

I wish you both well in your retirement from shop keeping although, I suspect, you've extensive plans all of which I hope go well.

Bless you both and thank you.

Paula Manning

Do you have any memories of The Emporium you would like to share? What do you think should replace it? Get in touch to share your thoughts.

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