He is the man who led a suburban shopping parade to the title of Britain’s High Street of the Year.
But now Johnny Hayes and his wife Frankie have moved on from their shop in Bishopthorpe Road – 20 years after they first traded on the street.
It marks the end of a chapter in this remarkable retailing success story.
Happily though, the shop that bears their name – Frankie & Johnny’s Cookshop – will continue trading under new ownership.
And the departing couple have many happy memories of their Bishy Road retailing years, which they described as “a lovely adventure”.
Hard work and hilarity
Frankie and Johnny embarked on that adventure 20 years ago.
“It was back in summer 1998, when we were thinking about buying a business, maybe a little village shop somewhere,” Frankie told YorkMix.
“Well Johnny just happened to pop out for a tin of undercoat and came back saying ‘guess what, Pextons is for sale’. I clearly remember saying something like ‘really, are you crazy?’”
Despite the fact they had a baby, a toddler and two teenagers, they took the plunge and bought the Pextons hardware shop, from Brian and Margaret Shearer who had run it for 24 years.
Just over a year later, they expanded the shop into the premises next door, once home to Fruits of Life.
They had 13 very happy years at Pextons, and won the title Britain’s Best Hardwade shop from the British Hardware Federation in 2009.
“It was very hard work but immensely rewarding and we made a huge number of friends and have very happy and sometimes hilarious memories,” Johnny said.
‘We’ve seen some sights’
The couple decided to downsize. And in 2011 they opened Frankie & Johnny’s Cookshop five doors down, with Pextons taken over by Claire Gilham and Dan Ebdon.
“We built F&J’s from scratch and it’s been a lovely adventure,” said Frankie, adding:
I have always loved cookware shops, and there aren’t that many left now, but they’re a bit like stationery shops, something about them, the textures and colours I think.
I have met some lovely people, our customers are great and I have loved working with my ever supportive daughters.
The staff camaraderie is second to none and we’ve had a laugh, seen some sights and come across some unforgetable situations that you only come across in retail land.
The highlight of the past 19 years? “It has to be the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in July 2014, and the street party that followed – wow, what a day.”
More awards followed. The store was named Best Cookware Shop in the North of England by the British Independent Retail Association.
For five years Johnny was chairman of the Bishy Road Traders Association (BRTA), and during this time the street fought off competition from hundreds of entrants to be named GB High Street Of The Year in 2015.
The following year Johnny was made an MBE, receiving his honour at Buckingham Palace. Johnny went on to be elected an independent councillor and became chairman of Indie York. And Frankie was secretary of the BRTA until last month. Johnny said:
It’s been wonderful to be part of this local business community but away from the shop, we’ve had a difficult couple of years so we’re looking forward to taking things a bit more easy.
I’m really proud of what Frankie has achieved, not only in running the cookshop, but for all her work for the Bishy Road Traders Associaltion and her voluntary work for Indie York.
Jo and Tim Asquith are the new owners of Frankie & Johnny’s Cookshop. It was their first day of trading on Monday (October 1).
“We are very excited to be taking over such a lovely business with great staff that is an integral part of the Bishy Road community,” said Jo.
The couple, whose families are based in the Wakefield area, came to York 25 years ago.
Jo used to work as a buyer for a brewery, later moving to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in York, most recently working on plans for Brexit.
Tim was a sales manager for a BMW dealership. But they both fancied a new challenge and realised the shop was for them.
“Everybody’s been so nice here on Bishopthorpe Road,” Jo said. “Frankie and Johnny have been absolutely great, the suppliers have been helpful too, and the staff are lovely.”
Frankie is sure they will make a success of it. “We know that the local community will continue to support them as they have done for us. We wish Jo and Tim much happiness and success in the future.”