One of Burnley’s best-loved retail institutions is to close its doors after the owner of Fancy That revealed his plans to retire having brightened the lives of thousands for the past 22 years.
Over the decades, fancy dress shop owner Jeff Biddulph (72) has seen his store on Briercliffe Road grow to become a fixture in the town, with the gregarious Jeff always on hand to provide customers with a wig here or a costume there, as well as a kind word and friendly approach which came to personify Fancy That.
“I’ve been meaning to retire for a few years and never really got on with it because I enjoy being in the shop,” said Jeff. “I’ve dealt with people all my life; I really enjoy it.
“Not opening the shop will be the hardest thing, but there’s already a list of things for me to do in retirement and it’s growing,” Jeff added. “I won’t get away with sitting on my backside, my wife will find me something to do!”
A former carpet-fitter who also owns Allsorts down the road, Jeff got the idea to open a fancy dress shop when the town’s only such shop closed in the ‘90s, bringing costume-hunting customers to Allsorts looking for bits and bobs.
“Carpet-fitting kills you off; it affects your back and your knees, so when this place became available, I thought ‘I might have a go at that’,” said Jeff. “I’ve met lots of people: if I haven’t fitted their carpet, they’ve been in for a wig!
“I’ve had a lot of support from people - they appreciate you’re a family person running a family business and I have to be thankful,” added Jeff, who has discounts on remaining stock. “Now it’s time to thank them with a bargain!”
Having always loved his work, Jeff even got the odd famous visitor: Paul Gascoigne’s storied mate Jimmy ‘Five Bellies’ Gardner once turned up in Gazza’s Mercedes during his spell at Turf Moor.
“It will be sad because you don’t do something like this for all that time and say you’re not going to miss it,” Jeff said.
Having worked six days a week for most of his working life, Jeff says that despite retirement and his impending 73rd birthday, he’ll be far from idle. “I’ve got four daughters, five granddaughters, and one great-granddaughter - all girls,” he said. “That keeps me on my toes!”