Read all about it: Newsagent Steve to call it a day after almost half a century

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 9 Apr 2019

Popular Grimsby newsagent Steve Harrison is making headlines after announcing his retirement.

The second generation at the helm of Freeman Street’s Harrison News is calling time on the trade after almost 50 years. The specialist tobacconist, one of very few in the whole of northern Lincolnshire, will close on April 27.

Nowhere else in Grimsby can you buy sausage rolls, newspapers and one of Dr Plumb’s Perfect Pipes before 5am, with Grimsby Telegraph readers flocking to the 'Freemo' newsagent for generations, some picking up papers on the way to work at as early as 4.45am. They have always been served with a smile.

Steve and his father Les started in the newsagent business in 1970 when they ran Harrison News in Victor Street, Grimsby. Les also ran a newsagent’s in Fairway, Waltham. In 1976, he sold that shop and they opened up in business on Cleethorpe Road in 1989. Steve opened up the Freeman Street shop in 1980, after Victor Street was subject to a compulsory purchase order to make way for housing.

The sprightly tobacconist and newsagent said: “I have been trying to master how to lay-in in the morning, but never managed it. I think I will be taking up a new hobby of being told what to do by my wife!"

As well as spending more time with Jane, Steve will also be indulging in his favourite hobbies of fishing, clay pigeon shooting and gardening. “I have been trying to sell the business for the past three years," he said. "There have been interested parties and they thought it was great, but decided after a while not to carry on with the sale. This is the only tobacconist in Grimsby and surrounding area. We have customers who have a particular brand of tobacco. We buy just for them. Obviously I am going to miss all the customers. You meet so many varied people and I have enjoyed the challenge of doing it day in and day out. I still enjoy doing it and this year I will be 70.”

A customer, concerned about his supply drying up, ordered a £120 bag of Exclusive Black Cherry tobacco. 

Steve is a rare character for a tobacconist, who does not smoke. “One day I thought to myself, why am I doing this? So I stopped,” he said. But that hasn’t stopped him having an unrivalled knowledge of tobacco products many of which he imports from Cuba, Nicaragua and Honduras.

He has seen a lot of changes in Freeman Street. “It was a big change when Marks and Spencer closed their Freeman Street store. It made a change. But it did not destroy it. What has changed to fortunes of the street is the motor car. People use their cars endlessly. They drive miles to a superstore, park in a free car park, get a barrow, fill up the barrow with all sorts of items and pay for it using, not cash, but a card.

“In Freeman Street you used to go to Turner’s bakers, get your fruit and veg from the market and get meat from the butchers. That has all but gone,” he said.

The tobacconist has also had its highs and lows. But even when tobacco smuggling was at its height, Steve had a niche in the market providing quality rolling papers and filter tips. When e-cigarettes first came out he was selling 200 to 300 in a month. Steve also recalled delivering papers as a teenager when the Grimsby Telegraph could be delivered all week for one shilling and six pence. He remembered when it was two and a half pence and sales reached nearly 100,000 copies each day. Now it is 70p, selling a little over 10 per cent of that figure as news is consumed online by more people than ever.

When the East Marsh high rise flats were demolished last year it marked the end of a huge customer base for shops in Freeman Street. “I hope they build a lot of new homes on that vacant bit of land rather than leave it empty, which I fear is what will happen,” said Steve. “Bringing in families will bring life back to Freeman Street. When they all left the flats it was 2,000 less people in the street."

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