Shop could get new lease of life

LONG-SERVING town centre hardware store Robert Martin’s may be set to close - but there could be light at the end of the tunnel for the well-known Banbridge property.

It is understood a staff member is currently in talks to rent the property in Newry Street and will provide much of the same product as the current hardware store. No official deal has yet been struck but it is believed something could be finalised this week.

The shop’s closure was announced at the end of last year following 71 years in business. Store owner Robert Martin, whose father opened the successful shop in 1940, said a revaluation of the property following refurbishment three years ago saw its rates soar to “exorbitant” levels.

Mr Martin was originally presented with a £120,000 rates bill but it is understood that has since been reduced to £88,000 - a figure still being appealed by the property owner.

Fourteen staff face redundancy as Robert Martin’s prepares to close this year. Speaking in October last year, before the store’s closure was officially announced, Mr Martin said the rates levels in Banbridge town centre could force other shops to follow suit.

“I just can’t afford to stay here any longer,” he said.