Family-owned business of more than 75 years set to close in Banbury's High Street

A family-owned tobacconist business is set to close after more than 75 years of operating in the High Street of Banbury.

Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 4:39 pm
John and Linda Cousins will be closing their family-owned business the Banbury Cross Tobacco Stores on Christmas Eve after 76 years in the High Street of town

On Christmas Eve John Cousins will close the doors of his family's business, the Banbury Cross Tobacco Stores, for the last time.

John said: "I'm 72 in May and it's time I hung my keys up, and retired."

His father, Jack Cousins, started the family-run tobacconist business in 1945. The shop, near the top of Banbury's High Street, stocked a wide range of loose rolling, pipe tobaccos and Havana cigars.

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A photo of Jack Cousins inside the family-owned business the Banbury Cross Tobacco Stores. Jack started the business in 1945.

Over the years John has enjoyed learning about the tobacco trade and getting to know the regular customers they have developed from the community.

John's wife, Linda, said: "He likes chatting to people. He knows all about Cuban cigars. He's been to Cuba, and all that knowledge will be gone now."

The shops main business over the years came from the sale of loose tobacco, cigars and pipes. They traditionally offered more than 40 different types of loose tobacco to the customer. But in its last few days many of the shop's shelves sat empty.

The specialty tobacco shop was one of the few remaining grade II listed businesses left in town with an original wood and metal framed sun blind, which was a canvas awning that can be pulled overtop of the shopfront over the sidewalk with a long wooden pole.

John Cousins stands behind the counter inside his shop the Banbury Cross Tobacco Stores several years ago

The grade II listed 200-year-old building is soon to be be sold as an empty shop.

John added: "I've had to run the stock out because I've got nobody to take it over. It's bittersweet. It breaks my heart to see it all like this... . It's just a sign of the times."

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic struck, and like many businesses led to a temporary closure of the specialty tobacco shop.

John said: "Obviously, with the pandemic we were closed for six months because we were classified as non-essential."

But they continued operating by running a click and collect service and making deliveries throughout the pandemic.

Linda added: "All our loyal customers still continued to support us."

With the shop's closure and retirement around the corner John hopes to spend more time with his family, and go on holiday.

Linda said: "John plays a bit of golf, and now the grandchildren can stay a bit longer when they visit.

"Now we can have a proper holiday for the first time ever. We've been married 45 years."

The loss of the family-run tobacconist business will be greatly felt in the town centre and High Street of Banbury.

Clare Adkins, the owner of The Secret Garden Flowers shop, who has been in the High Street for more than 20 years, said: "They have been great neighbours. It's really sad. We'll really miss them."