Roy never gave up after fire destroyed his business

FIVE years after he watched his home and livelihood go up in flames a Fenland businessman has opened the doors of new premises.

It took Roy Richards four and a half years to settle with an insurance company but he says he never thought about giving up.

Goldcrest Dry Cleaners was open in March High Street for just eight months when fire ripped through a row of businesses including the Eastern Promise Take-A-Way and Stott’s fish and chip shop in May 2005.

Mr Richards said: “I sat in the George pub and watched the flames. It wasn’t just my business, it was my home. Everything went, I had only the clothes I stood up in, I had to re-clothe myself and re-home myself.

“The very front of the shop didn’t get touched so the fire service allowed me to pick up the garments waiting for customers. I had them re-cleaned and then the customers picked them up from Boon and Potter.”

Mr Richards, 54, who is partially sighted after being born with an hereditary eye condition, has ran Goldcrest Dry Cleaners in Whittlesey for more than 20 years. But the fire put a financial strain on that business.

He said: “It took more than four and a half years to get the insurance paid out so I had to carry on without anything. I had to lay off staff and that was horrible but I knew I had to do that for the business to survive. It was a horrible decision to have to make. I have had to rebuild from zero.”

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On Saturday he opened a new shop in the town’s Wheel Centre for dry cleaning and garment printing. His long-established shop in Market Street, Whittlesey, remains very busy.

Mr Richards believes his business success and determination can provide valuable lessons for disabled people. He is particularly keen to help injured ex-servicemen who may be thinking of setting up businesses.

He said: “ While I cannot know what traumas they have gone through I do have an understanding of disability and the need to get on in life. If someone wants to set up a business I have the qualifications and the experience. I have run a successful business for more than 20 years and am expanding in a recession so I must be doing something right.”

Mr Richards will also be looking to open up shops in Ely and Stamford.

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