Britain’s first fair trade shop to close after Christmas

John and Nena Ritchies,  Kathleen Forrest and Sue Bond. Photo Emma Mitchell
John and Nena Ritchies, Kathleen Forrest and Sue Bond. Photo Emma Mitchell

It is the end of an era for Britain’s first fair trade shop - The Balmore Coach House - after it was announced recently it is to shut up shop after more than 36 years of trading.

Set up by husband and wife team of John and Nena Riches, the business has steadily grown over more than three decades into a major concern which now imports fair trade goods from many developing countries in Africa, India and Latin America.

The Balmore Trust was subsequently set up to oversee the running of the expanding business and develop trading links with suppliers.

The decision to stop trading from Balmore came about following the retiral of manager Sue Bond

who worked first as a volunteer, and then for 27 years as a full-time manager. She will retire at the end of this year.

John, who is 77, said it was now time to take a back seat. They are currently in negotiations to transfer the business to a fair trade group, which will run a new enterprise from premises in Milngavie. A number of location have been looked at but nothing has been decided on yet.

John said: “The message we want to get over is the huge help we have had. We are hoping to have a bumper Christmas here and plan to stop trading from here at the end of January. It really is the end of an era. I believe we are the oldest fair trade shop in Britain. The next oldest one I know of is The One World Shop in Edinburgh which started in 1983.”

The Balmore Trust will work with people in the local fair trade community and heritage groups to develop a new centre which will bring together fairly trade and locally grown produce, crafts and heritage displays.

Mr Riches added: “The spirit of the Coach House will live on! Ideally we would like to have transferred all of the business to a new organisation ready to start trading for Fairtrade fortnight which is at the end of February next year.”

Sue Bond, said: “My daughter was four when I started and she will be 34 this year. I will miss the place. It has become very much part of my life, and my family’s life.

“The business when I started was just for fundraising, but over the years has evolved into a fairtrade shop. I believe it was the first fairtrade shop in the UK and it has been interesting to see how the fair trade movement has grown from a niche market to mainstream over the years.”

Nena Riches, a doctor whose work in rural South Africa was the catalyst for the whole venture said: “It’s been quite a journey. We’ve made wonderful friends and worked with people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Thanks to the remarkable team of volunteers and staff, and support from customers, we’ve given away well over £1 million.”