Who amongst our Bath and district readers remembers the department store called Colmer’s which graced Union Street for over a hundred years! My thanks to Mr John Sartain for coming across ‘The Colmers Story’ – a specially produced booklet published in 1970 to celebrate the centenary of the struggling drapery and furnishing business acquired by James Colmer in 1870. It was to bear his name until 1973 when it was taken over by Owen and Owen. Both stores are no more but the building IS still in the retail business.
An advertisement from the 1920’s has an amazing list of departments on display. Everything from furs, ribbons and wools to shawls, skirts and corsets. There was stationery and toys, flannelettes and flannels and kid and fabric gloves. James Colmer was a Devon boy who learned the drapery trade in London before diving in to the department store business in Bath – a city which also had Jolly and Son and Evans and Owen up and running for James to compete with.
So successful was he – and his son after him – that shop after shop along Union Street came into the Colmers embrace. In 1914 a new shop front covered all the property under one name. In the 1930’s a complete re-build got underway. Though pitted with shrapnel the store escaped serious war damage and emerged to prosper and grow with new branches in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare. There was also more growth at the Bath store with an extension and two new floors. Another branch opened in Taunton.
Tucked into the anniversary brochure was a copy of a menu for a ‘Colmers popular 5 shilling luncheon’. The store was also well-known for its restaurant. Lamb and haddock amongst the delights on offer for Saturday, February 2nd, 1963.