Back from the flames
The simple opening of a door marked the welcome return of an old friend to Tenterden High Street.
The Webb’s of Tenterden kitchen and homeware shop reopened on Saturday, nearly two years after a devastating fire gutted the historic building.
A queue formed outside for the opening at 11am. Staff welcomed customers back with a smile and a glass of bubbly.
Waiting for them was a transformation with double the retail space, themed rooms and a lift between the ground and first floors.
Director Carol Webb said: “I feel a bit of everything – relief, excitement and trepidation.
“It has been a long 22 months to get to this. Everyone has worked so well but it is a listed building so it all took time.
“I am thrilled with how it looks and what we have now. It is how we visualised it and a great achievement.
“I want the shop to be somewhere that people can enjoy and get ideas.”
Since the fire on the night of November 5, 2013, Mrs Webb has been trading from part of the family’s ironmongers shop three doors away.
The new shop houses not only kitchen and homeware goods but the linens and babywear that was next door but one. That shop has now closed.
“The fire gave us the opportunity to do what we wanted to do,” said fellow director Nigel Webb. “Although it was devastating, we have brought the shop into the 21st century which we could not have done before.”
As a reminder of the fire, a blackened beam remains in the ceiling of the ground floor.
Mrs Webb said that the range of products sold had not been increased but the amount of stock had and there was now more room for customers to look round.
After the opening day, Webbs took to Twitter to thank people, saying: “We’ve had an amazing, busy day with support and good wishes from all you lovely people.” At the height of the blaze on the night of November 5, 2013, there were 60 firefighters from all over Kent on the scene.
The fire in the Grade II listed building spread to neighbouring Waterstone’s book store and Cafe Rouge, but no one was injured. The cause was accidental.
Repair work began in February, 2014. The contractor was local firm Tenterden Building and Restoration.
There has been a Webb’s of Tenterden ironmongery, hardware and homeware store in the family since 1935. The third generation of Webbs now work there with brothers Nigel and Graham running the firm, together with their step-mother Carol.
NOW: Hollie Dyer serving a customer
Eager shoppers waiting to go in the shop at 11am
THEN: Flames leap from the roof in this picture taken by Ed Hoad