A much-loved card shop in Eccles is closing after a spectacular 35 years of business.

Gems Balloons and Cards, Church Street, is set to seal its last envelope on Saturday 30 September after 35 years of selling greetings gifts in the area.

Owners John and Sue Hunt, along with their two dogs, Brian and Bill, are set to retire this October after having ran the business since 1988, in both a stall on the market, and their shop, opposite the Old Nags’ Head.

With ‘Thank you’ cards decorating the windows, shelves topped with gift bags, and a four pack of Boddingtons for John taking pride of place among presents, Sue explained how the community has reached out since the announcement.

The couple’s presents from the community.

She said: “The lease on the shop was up and we decided we’re getting to the right age for retiring now.

“We feel really humbled with the support that the community has given since we announced the news, especially with some of the messages online, and presents that people have brought in.”

John agreed: “We’ve watched people in the area grow up and it’s been lovely to share these memories with them. We had a customer who messaged us who is 21, and I remember the very first balloon I did for her was when she was one.”

The couple began selling cards after buying a stall on Eccles Market to earn extra cash, whilst raising their daughter as a newly married couple in the 1980s. With the venture proving a success, they decided to branch out, and bought their shop.

Now, more than 30 years later, Brain and Bill bask in the shop door’s sunshine, with some regulars coming in especially to see them. Sue said: “So many people just come in to say hello to the dogs and don’t even buy any cards. The other week, Brian ended up walking up the road and going through the bank’s automatic doors.”

“I think the dogs are really going to miss seeing all the faces. I think we will as well to be honest, we have made some really good friendships in the area.”

Although a widely successful business in the area, John explained how changes in shopping habits and local regeneration have posed fears for the business for some time. He said: “Trade isn’t anything like it used to be because of footfall, and because of future plans of the precinct itself.

“Especially with the council taking over earlier this year. Nobody knows what happens in the future so the decision to close was made. The council know what’s happening, but no one else does.”

Sue continued: “Now instead of sending cards, most people just text each other so that’s made a big difference too.”

With retirement in sight, the couple plan to spend the coming years walking Brian and Bill, and bonding with a horse that Sue part-owns with her granddaughter.


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