Hanging up the closed sign

    Hang Ups Tunbridge Wells

    A business which has traded on Mount Pleasant for almost 30 years, and been run by two close friends, is due to close by the end of the month after declining health and a changing retail environment took their toll.

    Hang Ups, the picture framing shop situated just a few dozen yards from the station, was founded in September 1986 by Mike Blacker, a former insurer, who wished to set up a company of his own.

    He was joined a year later by a friend he had met at the Skinners’ parents’ association, Lorie Murphy, and the two have run the shop together ever since.

    “I am very sad to see it close. It will leave a major hole in both our lives,” said Mr Blacker, who admitted his ‘advanced age’ and medical reasons were a major consideration behind the decision to close.

    Other factors have also played a part, he said, adding: “When I first opened up the place I was unfamiliar with retail. I did not know which way was up and which way was down.

    “But retail has changed, first with the opening of Royal Victoria Place, which altered shopping patterns, and then the internet.”

    He was also critical of the failure to redevelop the old cinema site, which has led to footfall being diverted to the other side of the road, which is dominated by the aesthetic Regency buildings.

    He said: “It has been disgusting the way they have let that drag on for so long. People are obviously going to prefer crossing the road where there is more to look at and it is nicer.”

    But the shop has survived for so long because of the quality of its work and its very loyal customer base, he said.

    And he praised their landlord for allowing them to extend their lease until closure on its original terms, despite it being up for renewal in September.

    Mrs Murphy was equally saddened by the imminent closure of the business she has helped to build.

    She said: “It feels terrible, but you have to embrace change. I have made so many good friends here it will be sad to leave it all behind.

    “We may not have been the cheapest framers out there but we are the best.”

    But most of all they will miss working with each other.

    Mr Blacker said: “People would come in and think we were a married couple. But that may be because we argued like one.”