HOPES of a blooming future for a florist business in South Tyneside have wilted as its owners prepare to close up shop tomorrow.
After 20 years, The Flower Mill, in St James Mall, Hebburn, is the latest retailer to call it a day in the shopping thoroughfare.
Business partners Richard Mill and Jo Goodey admit it will be a wrench to pull down the shutters for the final time.
They say falling footfall in the town centre had finally forced them to bid a sad farewell – despite the imminent opening of the new £12.8m Hebburn Hub.
High hopes that the hub – officially to be called Hebburn Central – will help boost town centre trade has come too late for the business.
Richard and Jo have enjoyed a whirlwind two decades in Hebburn, both professionally and personally.
They were married when they first opened the flowers and greeting card business in 1994.
They later divorced but remained on friendly terms and continued as business partners.
Now both happily remarried the business will continue to provide flowers for Tynedale Family Funeral Directors in South Shields from a unit in East Boldon.
Jo said: “Asda own the shopping centre but plans for improvements have come to nothing and we have been left with no choice to move out. Nothing is happening here.
“Because of the work on the hub we have been cut off from a lot of footfall, which hasn’t helped, and then a bad Christmas of trading was the final nail in the coffin for us.
“We have had many loyal customers over the years and we feel sad to be leaving, in a way we feel as if we are letting them down, but we really had no choice in the end.
“We’re one of the cheeriest and most colourful shops in the town centre, so I’m sure we’ll be missed.
“I want to thank our customers for their support and loyalty over the years. On a personal note I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.”
Two-storey Hebburn Central, which will include a six-lane swimming pool, a learner pool, fitness suite, library, dance studio, soft play area, learning centre and cafe, is on schedule to open in late spring this year.
It is hoped the scheme will boost footfall in the town and stimulate private sector investment in the retail core and in new housing.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We are naturally disappointed to see the Flower Mill close its doors, especially after 20 years serving the Hebburn community.
“Hebburn Central is on course to open this spring as planned and is a key part of the town’s regeneration.
“We will continue to work hard to attract the private sector investment needed to help realise our vision for the town centre and hope that Hebburn Central will act as a catalyst for this and future development.”