There are some shops that are ‘special’; the ones that you always have to go round when you are near, even though you don’t want to buy anything. In my time, there have been four such shops: NOVA in Aberdeen, a delightful shop where I always found something to buy. It closed this year after 50 years of operating; the owner wanted to retire and there were no buyers. It lies empty, a sad tribute to a fine store and tradition. Present Company on Pitshanger Lane in Ealing, still there, still selling the same type of goods, always a place to buy a birthday or Christmas present. I always associate Present Company with a fragrance of peach or apple blossom, a smell that makes me feel relaxed and willing to spend. I know its still there because I went back to check in April this year; it must have been going for over 30 years and was a trendsetter when it was first established. Then there was Fenwicks in Leicester which I blogged about on 7 January 2017, a stalwart on the Leicester Market Street which closed as a result of the ridiculous redevelopment of Leicester and finally, Jenners on Princes Street, Edinburgh.
I have visited Jenners, a very large department store with a long history, ever since I first visited Edinburgh in 1974. No visit passes by without dropping in. I love their Food Hall, the department with Scottish goods, their Christmas department, china and tableware and clothing. I love the smell as you pass through the doors of perfume and cosmetics. But I also really enjoy their eateries, always a good place to stop for a cup of tea and a scone. It’s funny how department stores seem to be so good at making scones, cheese scones that rise to the point of perfection and start to lean over, always with crunchy crusts. Fenwick’s cheeses scones were something ‘to die for’.
Jenners, like Fenwicks before them, never seem to be ‘stuffy’, ‘old fashioned’ or ‘boring’; they are interesting, always something different, selling quality goods but not overpriced. Jenners, like Fenwicks, is in a higgledy-piggledy building, with small mezzanine, floors that could not be reached from just one lift or escalator. That’s what I liked about Fenwicks and still do about Jenners. It attracts locals and tourists alike. Jenners was actually founded in 1838, at the same point on Princes Street but the building has changed because of a fire in 1892. It was rebuilt, opening again in 1895, with electric lights and hydraulic lifts. If you see photographs of Princes Street you will always spot Jenners. Having ‘travelled’ on the Big Wheel during the Christmas Market, on a number of occasions, I love seeing Jenners from above, having that different perspective.
Disaster nearly happened in 2005, when Jenners was bought by House of Fraser (and House of Fraser already had one store at the other end of Princes Street). Was the name going to change, would there be a ‘make-over’, would it’s uniqueness be maintained or would it become yet another high street department store? Fortunately, none of those things happened. It is still Jenners, the store still has the same atmosphere but maybe one good change is that Valvona and Crolla have a franchise for providing food and they are a great Edinburgh tradition.
In all the times that I have been to Jenners, it never occurred to me that they might have their own tea towel, perhaps they didn’t before. Boy, was I excited. It is a great tea towel, a perfect representation of Jenners that no one could mistake, that fine presence on the corner where the window displays stretch fully from Rose Street, round to St David Street and finally to Princes Street. I love the doorways surrounded by marble and the stone carvings, high up on the building. I am not sure that the Assistant quite understood why I was so excited. I had to have my photo taken outside Jenners holding their tea towel (I’m not sure that the tourists around quite understood that ritual either). If only Princes Street had the number of people as depicted on the tea towel; it would certainly make shopping easier! So when I am reading Alistair McCall Smith’s books about Edinburgh, where characters have morning coffee or Afternoon Tea in Jenners, I can reflect on the fact that I have a tea towel from there and there is no mention in his books about them having one. This is another tea towel that will prolong the wiping up process because of the memories associated with it.