EMOTIONAL staff and customers waved farewell to a much-loved Sheffield institution yesterday, as it closed its doors for the final time.
Hundreds of regulars filed into Pollards Tea and Coffee for a last tray of tea and scones, and to stock up on freshly ground Java.
Managing director Simon Bower, whose great-great-grandfather Joseph Pollard founded the company 132 years ago, said he could no longer operate surrounded by empty stores on Charles Street.
He said: “Today has been incredibly emotional. There are no winners here. It’s a sad day for the customers, for the company, but most of all for the staff.”
Eighteen jobs will be lost at the store, although five others will be retained at the separate Pollards coffee wholesale business at Tinsley.
Shop manager Rachel Pearson, who started working for Mr Bower’s grandfather 26 years ago, rushed to take dozens of orders as a long queue formed before her counter.
Tearful customers exchanged hugs with members of staff.
Janet D’Roza, aged 63, from Middlewood, said: “It’s really quite a shock. I’ve been bringing my children and grandchildren here for many years.
“The quality of the food here is excellent and we have got to know the staff so well.”
Sue Bateman, who has visited the cafe every Friday lunchtime for a decade, said: “It is very sad. It’s the last place in Sheffield where you can get home cooking. There are so many elderly people who come here to meet their friends. They are in here several times a week and feel comfortable here.
“Where will they go now?”
One customer, who has lunch at the cafe regularly with her disabled son, said: “We will miss it. We have been coming here a long, long time. The staff are so friendly and my son won’t go anywhere else. They are so good with him.”
Pollards started trading on Glossop Road in 1879, before moving to a site opposite the current Charles Street store a century later, in 1979.
In recent years, the company has also run shops in Meadowhall and East Parade.
Nancy Barker, 78, from Rotherham, started working at Pollards in the 1970s. She retired 18 months ago, but put in a shift behind the counter yesterday morning for old times’ sake.
“I worked with Simon’s grandparents and his mother,” she said. “I loved working here. There is nowhere else like it.
“I came in to say goodbye to my old colleagues and the customers. It makes me very depressed that it is closing.”
Dozens of readers have expressed their views about the closure since The Star broke the news on Tuesday.
Many people posting on The Star website joined Mr Bower in criticising Sheffield Council for its management of the delayed city centre regeneration project, which has left Charles Street with empty units.
But others agreed with Coun Ian Auckland, the council’s cabinet member for business, who suggested Pollards had been a victim of the economic downturn and increased competition in the cafe sector.