“It’s a big wrench, but I can’t afford to sustain it any more” - GuitarZone shop in Halifax set to close

Guitar Zone and Cafe Zone, Northgate, Halifax
Guitar Zone and Cafe Zone, Northgate, Halifax

The owner of GuitarZone in Halifax town centre admits it will be a big wrench to leave after announcing the business is to close.

Chris Fairley and his partner Tracy Jennings, who runs the adjoining CafeZone, will shut up shop at the end of July.

Tracy Jennings and Chris Fairley, at Guitar Zone and Cafe Zone, Northgate, Halifax

Tracy Jennings and Chris Fairley, at Guitar Zone and Cafe Zone, Northgate, Halifax

The 56-year-old, who lives in Barkisland, has reluctantly admitted defeat in his battle to keep the shop on Crossley Street open.

“I’ve been in denial for a while I think because it’s an emotional thing,” he said. “I’ve built this from nothing.

“We’ve been here in town for 10 years, in Dean Clough for two-and-a-half years before that.

“I’ve been in business for 14-and-a-half-years, so it’s a big wrench, but I can’t afford to sustain it any more.

“It’s emotional because it’s a hobby really, and there’s a real community feeling in the shop and the cafe, which is a haven for some people.

“But that trade has declined as well. Broad Street dragged people to this end of town, but it’s gone back the other way now.

“It’s just sad really, that’s the feeling.”

Chris has taken advantage of a break clause in his 15-year lease at the shop to call it a day.

“The thought of another five years kind of killed me financially and emotionally,” he said.

“We thought the town centre was on the up two or three years ago, it seemed to revive itself a little bit with the Piece Hall, more shops appearing.

“But over the last two years it’s got harder and harder. Partly that’s Halifax because there’s no help or incentive to try and encourage us.

“We pay extra rates for the Business Improvement District, but that’s really focused on the other end of town near the Piece Hall. They don’t create anything over here.

“Obviously parking charges have gone up so less people park in town.

“There’s no real strategy to help from the council. And then the retail climate is really poor.

“The Brexit thing has caused uncertainty in the economy, and people shop online. They come in here and go and buy things online.

“We work on very tight margins anyway but it’s getting harder to make margins.

“It’s not profitable any more. This place is £51,000 a year before I turn a light on, which is a lot of money.

“Schools is another issue. When we first moved here, we used to get loads of teenagers coming in and jamming on guitars, but that doesn’t happen any more. There’s no desire to play any more because schools aren’t supporting it.

“Also the music industry has declined as well. There were three music shops in town three or four years ago, but I’m the last man standing.

“So this will be it sadly, unless someone hopefully takes the baton.”

When asked if there are other retailers in Halifax feeling the strain, Chris said: “There must be. Well I know there are. I think the market’s on its knees a bit.

“I think you need to encourage people to come to town centres, make them a safer place to be.

“Make parking reasonable rather than expensive.”

And when asked what he plans to do when the shop closes, he said: “No idea. I might have to get a real job!”