Local life - Williams of Audlem

Owner, Judith Evans (right) and assistant, Olive Stretch outside Williams of Audlem

Owner, Judith Evans (right) and assistant, Olive Stretch outside Williams of Audlem - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

Putting the spotlight on retailers whose business is an important part of the community.

Williams of Audlem has been in Judith Evans’ family since it opened as a draper’s shop in 1862.

‘It was founded by Eli Williams, who came from Tarporley. He bought it off the Kirkhams who were drapers and since then there has always been a Williams of Audlem,’ reveals Judith who took over the running of the store from her parents Megan and Derek McKelvey five years ago.

Eli’s son George succeeded his father and then during the 1920s and 30s it was left to Judith’s maternal grandmother Hilda Dutton, an astute businesswoman who by all accounts was a bit of a character too.

She had taken over the store, as her brothers had opted out of the drapery business and moved into the burgeoning motor industry.

‘She was quite an unusual person who used to drive motorbikes and cars, possibly influenced by her brothers,’ says Judith.

‘She’d drive the village doctor around as doctors in those days didn’t drive themselves. They were far too important! She also had a good business head.’

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Over the years the draper’s has been transformed into a shop more suited to the tastes of the contemporary customer and is now filled with giftware, stationery and cards.

‘We pride ourselves on our greetings card selection and I spend a lot of time ensuring ours are something special and unique,’ explains Judith.

‘The key has been adapting to make the shop viable.’

They still sell newspapers and magazines, as they have done since the early 1900s, and there is a good selection of basic hardware. Judith, who worked at Laura Ashley for 17 years before taking over the shop, has also begun making more of their history with a retro-refit.

‘One of the unique things we have is our heritage,’ she adds.

‘If we modernise then we are just like everybody else.’

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