G D Laurens

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The basket and rope manufacturing department which was part of G D Laurens in the 19th century

Aladdin's cave

One of St Helier's shops whose demise was most regretted by islanders was George D Laurens, of Queen Street. The shop, which also had an entrance at the back from Hilgrove Street, was a veritable Aladdin's Cave, with sections devoted to household goods, hardware, tools and do-it-yourself equipment (long before the phrase came into common usage), toys and all manner of other treasures.

Founded by George Deslandes Laurens, the business was first mentioned at 3 Queen Street in the 1895 Jersey Times Almanac. George Deslandes Laurens started out as a basket and rope maker, whose retail premises would eventually dominate Queen Street and Hilgrove Street behind, and also spread to Bath Street, selling kitchen ware, ironmongery, toys, prams, all manner of household goods, as well as the original baskets and ropes. The 1901 census shows George living at No 3 with his second wife Florence, nee Le Gros, and children Florence and George. He had first appeared in business in 1886 at 37 Queen Street.

By 1910 G D Laurens had spread next door to No 5, previously occupied by ironmongers Vibert and Ahier, and eventually the business would occupy Nos 3, 5 and 7.

Jerripedia editor Mike Bisson recalls:

"I remember visiting the shop so often with my mother in the 1950s. Of course, at that time it was the toy section which held the greatest interest for me, with the opportunity to view the latest Meccano sets and other such delights offsetting those hours spent in silence at my mother's side in the habadashery department of Noel and Porter or Frederick Baker and Sons. But probably my longest-lasting memory of the shop is the amazing levels of customer service. Today, if the amateur plumber or carpenter cannot find what is wanted bubble-wrapped on the shelves of the DIY store, a vague description across the counter of a builder's merchant is likely to be greeted with a look of disdain. Sixty years ago in Laurens, the brown-coated assistant behind the hardware counter would merely disappear with a grin on his face up the spiral staircase to the storeroom above and emerge triumphantly within minutes, with an even broader smile, holding a set of small cardboard boxes of exactly what was required, in a variety of sizes."

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