Continuing our celebration of the independent shops of St Andrews, we managed to catch up with Jude Innes from J & G Innes; not only a shop but a landmark on South Street.
Q: How long has J&G Innes been open in St Andrews?
A: We have been trading on this site since the late 1870′s – my great-great-grandfather started the St Andrews Citizen Newspaper in 1870.
Q: How has J&G Innes changed over the years?
A: When my Grandfather bought the corner building in 1927 it was totally redesigned. Frank Pride – the local architect – used the art deco style of the time. This was a true labour of love for my grand-father and all the features that were added then are still here today: the lovely oak staircase with its panelled features and the stained glass windows, and the wrought iron-work outside that tells people what we do (“Local Books, Post Cards etc”) are all still there. When I came into the business in 1996, my mother passed on the ethos to which we still hold true, and that is to remember what is written above the shop front: “Stationers, Gifts and Books”.
The fabric of the building has been lovingly restored over the years and the St Andrews Citizen newspaper has been re-instated with the help of the Preservation Trust, Mr Lindall’s students in Edinburgh and our local tradesmen.
The Gift department – which is in the old Christian Institute building – was refurbished this year. We bought this building in the sixties and it my mother and local architects Walker and Pride again, who redesigned the front in the 1980s to tie in with the original store.
Q: Do you have any funny stories from behind the scenes in J&G Innes?
A: Oh! Where to start?! Every day brings its own stories which is what it’s all about when you are dealing with the public. They often have us in stitches, but in a great way. I remember a couple of Americans who asked me if I could give them directions; of course I said I would do my best. Then they told me they wanted directions to Stonehenge as they hoped to visit that afternoon!
One of our favorites was a customer asking for a book on cycle paths and we misheard him and thought he had asked for psychopaths! A very strange conversation ensued! A similar thing happened with rabbit breeding and rapid breathing!
Q: What do you think makes St Andrews such a great place for good independent stores to flourish?
A: It has a wonderful feel about it and it is very accessible by foot once you get here. The shop buildings themselves are generally small and so more suited to small individual shops and we have a great reputation for independent retailers, especially with our visitors from the West of Scotland.
Q: Apart from J&G Innes, what’s your favourite place to shop in St Andrews, and why?
A: Millers [on South Street]- I know I’m biased because Carolyn [the owner] is my friend but I just love her clothes and her new shop with all its quirky antiques makes present buying for all my friends very easy! Luvians is my favorite shop for wines and whisky and I. J. Mellis for cheese… actually I could go on and on!
Q: Why do you love St Andrews?
A: I love the St Andrews location – the beaches, the open spaces, the little wynds and alleyways, the cobbled streets and the ruins, the nearness of the East Neuk and Edinburgh – everything I love is accessible from here and the sun always shines! After years in Manchester, Leicester, London and Liverpool – the small town of St Andrews is heaven for me.
Q: What is coming up in the future for J&G Innes?
A: We are getting known for our book events StAnza, Crail Festival and Book Nation so hopefully we can attract some big names next year, watch our website and follow us on Twitter and our Blog to find out more!
Written and contributed by Beth Craggs