This year, one of Skipton’s favourite independent shops is celebrating a very special birthday. If you’re local to Skipton, then you probably know Sarsaparillas quite well. Sitting proudly at the top of Skipton High Street, this wonderful little shop has been providing Skipton residents with sweets and confectionery for 100 years.
Originally opened as a sweet shop and tobacconist in the year 1920, Sarsaparillas has been owned by the same local businessman for the last two decades. Over the years, it has had a number of different names. For a considerable period of time, this much-loved independent shop was called Petheridges and was owned by a family that still owns one of the nearby shops today. For the past eight years, the shop has been called Sarsaparillas but locals fondly refer to, what is certainly one of Skipton’s oldest shops, as the “Wonka shop” due to it’s similarities to the Candy Man’s shop in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
During lockdown, manager Jon Costello has been offering a local delivery service which has proven to be incredibly popular (as a regular customer myself, I am far from surprised). They are due to reopen their shop next week, in line with government guidelines, but with COVID-19 still posing a credible threat and social distancing measures still needing to be adhered to for the foreseeable, they are unable to celebrate their centenary as they would have liked.
We spoke to Jon to find out more about Skipton’s old fashioned sweet shop, which has provided generations of local families with their favourite sugary treats…
“We have run the shop for almost 6 years and can honestly say we have loved every minute. Who wouldn’t want to own a sweet shop?
“We still sell sweets the old fashioned way and customers love the theatre of buying a quarter of sweets, served in a little sweet bag, just like they did when they were a kid. We get great pleasure in creating a happy environment for families to shop and get great reviews and an amazing amount of repeat custom. We know so many faces when we walk down the street (although we don’t know people’s names) we often have lengthy chats with lots of our regular. We were invited to two weddings even though we didn’t know their names!
“We frequently have locals and tourists in the shop who have shopped with us all their lives and often have 3 generations of one family in the shop at any time. The record length of time we know about between visits is 84 years! A lady entered the shop last summer and immediately burst into tears. When I asked what the matter was, she said she was 90 years old and remembered being brought to the shop as a child by her mum. She had bought Dolly Mix in our shop 84 years ago! I happily gave her a bag of Dolly Mix and told her she was a record-breaker! We had a lovely chat about the shop.
“I have been told several stories of previous owners and about the shop having racks and racks of pipes on display and customers coming from all over the country to buy.
“We have had to adapt massively to the COVID-19 pandemic and regular customers might not recognise the shop. We have introduced a one-way system which will allow us to have 2 customers in the shop at once. We have developed an online shop which has proved successful and I would like to thank all our customers for their fantastic support at this difficult time. Who knows what the future will bring but we will do everything in our powers to ensure that our little bit of sweet paradise remains open for many years to come.”