Fun looks set to end as Blackpool's famous joke shop faces demolition
An iconic seaside business looks set to face closure after being told it must move to make way for the £300m Blackpool Central scheme.
Drummers House of Jokes on Central Drive, known to thousands of holidaymakers for its eye-catching murals of horror film characters Chucky and Pennywise, faces an uncertain future after the council said it will be compulsory purchasing the site.
The shop has sold jokes and costumes to countless visitors and locals for the past 51 years, but now the family that runs it say they will struggle to make it work elsewhere in the town.
The business was founded by Asa Heron, who had a flower and Nottingham Lace shop on part of the site in 1969.
A second shop became available after a bookmakers closed down and he expanded his businesses, launching the joke shop in 1970.
His daughter Samantha Harper, who runs the shop with sister Adaline Langton and her children Jamie and Bobby, said: “This is the perfect location for a joke shop and we get so many visitors.
“We get parents coming with their children in for stink bombs and things, who came here when they were children.
“The council has said the building will be compulsory purchased but we don’t know when. We are living in limbo.
“We looked into moving across the car park to a new location there but the rent and rates are so high – over £38,000. We don’t think it will be viable.
“Don’t get me wrong, Blackpool needs regenerating massively but it will be at the cost of our shop being knocked down.
“It has gone to compulsory purchase but what they are offering us is not worth it.
“They have not offered premises anywhere else but we have looked. However you can’t really replicate what we have here now. It is looking like the end of an era unfortunately.
“We have survived Covid, we have survived the recession, we have survived the internet, but none of that seems to matter to the council.
“I know there’s no sentiment in business but it is sad that it has to come to an end like this.”
Samantha said the family had been waiting since 2017 for firm details of the Blackpool Central development but were still in limbo.
“ There was a council meeting the other night and one of the councillors said that retail was dead in Blackpool, which really annoyed us,” she said.
“They have been testing the ground on the main car park for foundations so they are getting ready.
“We know the multi-storey car park will be the first to be built. Whether anything else does remains to be seen but we lived through the casino plans 15 years ago – all that hype – and that is why we haven’t been holding our breath until now.
“We have been doing this for 50 years and one minute you think it would be time for a change, but then it would be such a shame to end the family business like this and we feel gutted.
“We are too young to retire. What are we supposed to do?”
She said customers’ favourites were the traditional joke shop items and said people loved going in just browsing.
She said: “It has to be the stink bombs, the fake dog poos, all the things that people remember from their school days. We have little lads being brought in by their dads who used to buy them. It takes them back to their youth.
“Also popular are the fancy dress, hats and wigs, with people getting dressed up for their stag and hen dos,
“There is also now a big interest in BB guns and sports air rifles for shooting ranges from dads and lads.
“We are mainly a boys shop – big boys and little ones.”
The building features artwork from Fylde coast artist Christian Fenn, also known as Seca One, who created the Chucky mural and also Karl Tsang, a graffiti pro, who did the jokeshop whoopee cushion imagery.
Samantha said: “Dad died eight years ago and my sister and I have been running Drummers ever since.
“Dad’s nickname at the time was Drummer, so that’s why the shop has its name.
“In 1987, Dad bought the lease for 125 years. Businessman Max Smith had property on Central Drive and bought the derelict flats and turned them into holiday flats. He let the businesses below have the leases. Central Drive was busy in those days, all good businesses and a thriving community.”
The Central Car park area is set to be cleared to make way for the £300m Blackpool Central tourist attraction scheme.
It will feature a flying theatre with a Chariots of the Gods theme, rides, an immersive virtual reality experience, a rooftop bar, plus cafes and restaurants.
First revealed in 2018, it is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs and boost annual spending in the town by £75m.
A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “Proposals for the Central Car park site and surrounding area have been widely publicised for a number of years.
“In order for the developers to deliver this transformational change and large scale investment within the town, the council needs to acquire the remaining property assets contained within the area of the site.
"Over the past few years, the council has been in ongoing discussions and negotiations with the parties that continue to hold interests in the site, including a number of units that remain on Central Drive.
“We continue to offer support to seek to ensure that an amicable resolution is found with all parties.
“The council is committed to help deliver the Blackpool Central scheme and a council executive in January authorised a compulsory purchase order that will be sought from the Secretary of State in the near future, so that a cleared site is secure d to enable the development to be brought forward.
“It is the intention of the developer to make a planning application for Phase One of the site this summer.”
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