Generations of Worksop families have strolled up Bridge Street to the pet shop to peep at the teeny animals and tropical fish in tanks.
If they were lucky, the children might have been allowed to take one home.
That pet shop is Middletons Pets and Gardens, a long standing and trusted name on Worksop’s main street for more than 150 years.
But with a heavy heart and due to difficulties in the local economy the current owner is shutting up shop.
Philip Jackson bought the shop in 2004 from the late David Middleton and his wife Anne.
The family name has been associated with the shop since 1855 when Henry Middleton started work as manager at Richard Ledger’s flour mill on the site.
After a few years it became a flower and seed shop under his name.
And there began a legacy that would see Middletons flourish into one of Worksop’s last remaining family businesses.
“Middletons had nine shops in its heyday, including ones in Retford and one in Shireoaks,” said Philip.
“They serviced the many allotments there were in those days. Every miner had a plot where he would grow his own vegetables and keep an animal.”
“The yard out back was stacked with pallets of compost and peat.”
Philip described how the shop site once had a cobbled alley running through it, with the Butchers Arms pub on one side, and various small shop units on the other side.
“They called it Skittle Alley because the men would play skittles down there,” said Philip.
And the room at the very top of the building was once a social spot called the Canterbury Dance Hall.
Philip said: “We have uncovered such a rich history behind the shop, including old seed packets and artefacts associated with the gardening trade.”
“We even heard a tale that someone once bought poison from the shop, went across the road to the Lion, and killed himself.”
In those days every poison sale was recorded in a book which Philip still has on display.
In recent years, and with the rise of large garden centres, Middletons has shifted focus towards pet supplies.
But in the age of the Internet, he just can’t compete on price. And having such a huge shop to run, along with others in Sheffield and Nottingham, is taking its toll on his health.
“I have enjoyed the shop and being in Worksop, and must thank the Middleton family for their help and support over the years,” said Philip.
“Thank you also to our loyal customers who we will strive to continue supplying through the Sheffield shop and our website.”
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here now.”
Philip also thanked his staff for their hard work and dedication, always trying their best to help make Middletons a viable business.
“It was a hard decision to close the shop but it’s the right thing to do. It frees me up to concentrate on the other shops,” he said.
“There are good things happening in Worksop with the council working to bring improvements. But the only way independent businesses will thrive is if shoppers stay faithful to their local high street.”
FOR FACT BOX:
Anne Middleton, wife of the late David Middleton, remembers when the Bridge Street shop was so busy on a Saturday that they had 11 staff working.
“We had to use hand signals to communicate with each other from the other end of the shop,” she said.
Anne, now 71, set up a successful dried flowers section in the shop for around 15 years and worked there until Philip took over.
“My two children, as their father and grandfather before them had done, earned their pocket money working in the shop,” she said.
“It is very sad that Middletons has to close, but it’s a sign of the times.”