Beales to stay in Bedford - but the store’s makeover may have to wait

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Bedford’s oldest department store is to remain open despite cost-cutting moves by its owners.

But Beales will not be getting its long-awaited makeover until company finances improve, the T&C can reveal.

This week Beales Department Store group proposed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to increase profits.

The group, which has 29 outlets nationwide, plans to ask landlords of loss-making stores to reduce their rents or take the premises back.

A spokesman confirmed Bedford Beales would stay, but it is not known whether a rent reduction will be sought.

Beales moved in to the premises at the corner of Silver Street and Harpur Street 34 years ago and some of the decor has never been changed since then.

“The store is quite shabby in places. A makeover has been hinted at for ages,” said one customer.

But the company spokesman said: “Beales wants to invest in its stores, but this depends on its restoration to financial health.”

Beales premises were formerly occupied by Braggins department store for decades.

Mr Ezra Braggins bought part of the building in 1885 and opened the shop was open from 8.00am to 8.00pm during the week and 8.00am to 10.00pm on Saturdays.

In the early days it was a drapers and boys outfitters, but in 1914 the High Street shop selling girls clothes was moved from the High Street to the corner store.

After the Second World War Braggins expanded in Silver Street when in 1947 Bryants Fish Shop was bought. In 1950 the Victory Hall was taken over and in 1955 new departments were opened for ladies clothes and fabrics.

In 1970 a new £85,000 extension in Harpur Street was built.

Do you remember Braggins or Beales in the early days? Please email us your memories.