Fenwick’s Farewell: London Mourns the Closing of Iconic Department Store

 

More than 130 years after it opened, the flagship Fenwick department store in central London will close its doors for the final time on Saturday.

The historic four-storey store on New Bond Street in Mayfair will close after the retailer – owned by more than 40 descendants of John James Fenwick, who founded the company in 1882 with a single store in Newcastle – sold the property to developers for £430 million.

“I’m actually devastated that it’s closing,” said Rosie Grant, 62, a costume designer, as she visited the store this week to say, “a final, sad farewell.”

“It just has an elegance that you don’t find in other stores. It’s more reserved, it’s classic; It has things you really need. You feel more comfortable than in a giant like Selfridges.”

For as long as she can remember, she has been coming to Fenwick at least twice a month, sometimes three times. “There was always a little something — a hat, a ribbon, a bow — that I could add to a costume to make it a little better,” Grant said.

Grant even took the people she designed for to the store to try on the designs. “They had a nice, discreet dressing room where we could try things out,” she said. Among those she has taken into that dressing room over the years are Olivier Award-winning actress and Sherlock star Lindsay Duncan and Dame Judi Dench.

On this trip, however, Grant Fenwick returned empty-handed. “There was nothing I actually wanted,” she said of the store’s “archive sale,” which promised up to 70% off. “There’s not much in there, most of the floors have already been cleared, it’s a bit scary.”

Sali, also 62, had a much more successful shopping trip. “I got so many bargains,” she said, opening two large dark-green Fenwick paper shopping bags (the bags are listed on eBay for £8 each). “I got a very cute little straw-colored cap that was reduced from £210 to £100, and this [a jeweled headband] for £50 – it was £195.

“I am so sad that it’s closing. I have been coming twice a year for 35 years. It’s an institution. But money runs this place, and I guess money talks.”

The Fenwick family put the New Bond Street store which opened in 1891, which opened in 1891, up for sale at the end of 2022, hoping it would fetch up to £500 million. It was sold for £430 million to Lazari Investments, a property development company founded by the late Cyprus-born British billionaire Chris Lazari.

Leonidas Lazari, one of his children, previously said: “Our group has acquired the famous Fenwick department store, which has existed for 134 years, as well as the Dolce & Gabbana store on Bond Street in London.” The corner property consists of six buildings and is considered one of the most attractive locations in Europe. The property comprises 80 meters of exceptional frontage on Bond Street and Brook Street and five upper floors.”

The Lazaris have commissioned Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners architectural firm to “renew” the site, creating a nearly 40% larger building with “future-proof, premium retail accommodation” on the ground and first floors with “best in class” finishes. Offices upstairs.

Foster + Partners describe the plan as a “deep retrofit” that involves demolishing parts of the buildings – and while the facades will remain, they will be significantly raised. The usable area will grow by 38%. The building is not listed but is within the Mayfair Nature Reserve.

Part of the store will be temporarily taken over by a charity pop-up. From February 9, the Charity Super.Mkt group, which includes five charities including Shelter, Traid, Shaw Trust and Havens Hospices, will occupy the former handbags and accessories department.

The multi-charity store, described as the popular department store, will be open for two weeks. It will also host events with DJs on weekends, as the store collaborates with luxury stores such as Dior, Hermès and Emporio Armani.

 

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