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End of an era as Westcliff Army & Navy closes – Brian Burns

End of an era as Westcliff Army & Navy closes - Mr Burns

End of an era as Westcliff Army & Navy closes 2

End of an era as Westcliff Army & Navy closes

A STALWART of the Westcliff retail scene is set to close its doors in a months’ time.

The family-run Westcliff Army and Navy Store is closing after 73 years of business.

Since 1950, the store at 297-299 London Road has provided combat clothes, bomber jackets chef outfits, brownies uniforms, and much more, to the residents of Southend City.

Owner Brian Burns has worked at the store as long as he can remember: “I was serving here when I actually couldn’t see over the counter!”

The shop has a fascinating history, with Mr Burns’ grandfather Adolf Burnstein originally opening the business in the East End in 1911, providing military gear and uniforms for the dockers coming off the ships.

Mr Burns explains how the store came to Westcliff: “Adolf had asthma and the doctor said he should move to the seaside, so the company moved here in 1950.

“I’ve lived in Westcliff all my life, and since I was 14, I worked in the store with my father Morris. Morry, as he was known, was a real character. People still come in and remember him.”

Mr Burns has also been married for nearly 40 years to his wife Laura, who is the backbone of his family, comprising their four children as well as grandchildren.

Mr Burns puts the shop’s longevity down to the number of different customers they cater for: “We’ve been so successful because we won’t just carry one particular line, but cater to everything, from cadets to all the catering businesses in the area.”

Being a mainstay of the local scene for so many years, Mr Burns has also seen many changes come and go: “My father used to order jeans, and once we had loads of flares!

“They went out of fashion, so we had them all made narrow by a seamstress, and then of course the flares came back!”

He adds: “I’m really going to miss not talking to people as much, because I love meeting people from all walks of life: I’ve met some wonderful people here, and know customers who have been coming here all their lives.”

Salvo the Clown, a familiar face in Southend is a regular customer, purchasing his distinctive coloured diamond attire in the store.

There have also been a few famous customers, including Victor Meldrew who would pop in when doing a show at the Cliffs: “They asked me on the radio the other day if I’d be as miserable as him when I retire, and I said no!”

Mr Burns is still busy selling lots of stock in the store, including the counters, with customers pouring in each weekend to seize a bargain.

He admits he has been overwhelmed with this community response: “It’s been very emotional,” he adds, as he moves nearer to the closing date of March 16.

Mr Burns’ announcement came just before the publicans of The Cricketers, just a little up the road, announced they were stepping down.

These changes are also occurring at a time when Hamlet Court Road, “Westcliff’s “Bond Street,” is undergoing something of a revival.

“I am sad to be closing, but I’m 64 now. I’ve worked here for 50 years, but it’s time to spend some time with the family and enjoy my retirement.”

Whilst the first floor will be turned into flats, Mr Burns has also sold the online part of the business, so he reassures everyone that they will still be able to buy all their favourite gear online at

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