Letchworth Garden City is generally associated with small independent shops. However, it has actually had a number of chain stores from its early days including Star Supply Stores, Bradley Pass & Co. and Home & Colonial Tea Stores.
W.H. Smith & Son, the newsagents, opened in its current location at 21 Leys Avenue in 1907. This coincided with the move of the company’s bookbinding workshops to Letchworth.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the shop was run by a family who coincidentally were called Smith. Mr S.W. Smith was the manager, Mrs M. Smith was in charge of stationery and their daughter Janet was in charge of the book department.
Boots Cash Chemists opened at 38 Leys Avenue, on the corner of The Wynd, in 1908. From 1912 to 1953 it also featured a lending library. The company moved to its current location in Garden Square Shopping Centre in 1974.
Mr P.J. Miles remembers: “When it first started it had all these rows of mahogany fittings and rows of drug drawers at the back of the counter… Of course everything was sold loose in those days. Lots of loose things in the drawers…they used to sell white lead…dog tooth crystals for making your own cell batteries, you name it we sold it, unbelievable…You could buy thyroid tablets over the counter…And all kinds of things that you couldn’t possibly buy these days…”
It is not clear exactly when F.W. Woolworth & Co. opened at 32 Leys Avenue, but it was probably around 1929.
A Letchworth resident recalls “I remember Woolworth’s in Leys Avenue, with its wooden flooring and tins of biscuits.”
In 1986 they too moved into the Garden Square Shopping Centre. After 80 years in the town, they closed in 2009 when the company went into administration. Burtons the tailors opened in their purpose-built shop on Leys Avenue in September 1938. In the 1960s they split the shop and let part of it to another company. They closed in the 1970s only to reappear on the other side of Leys Avenue in 2005.