No longer open all hours: Cults shop set to close

Kelly of Cults
Kelly of Cults

One of the North East’s oldest and most iconic stores will cease trading in Cults when its operations are handed over to retailing giant Sainsburys.

Kelly of Cults, established first as a bakery in 1902 by master baker Benjamin Kelly (pictured) will lease their family store to Sainsburys when it closes at the end of March, if Sainsburys’ plans are approved by Aberdeen City Council.

Kelly of Cults has in its 112 years of trading expanded from being simply a bakery to becoming a superstore in the hands of four generations of the Kelly family. Nowadays, cousins Nicholas (as managing director) and Jonathan Kelly (in charge of the bakery) are the only family members actively involved in the work of the famous store. The Kelly family will continue to own all their sites in the city and shire while leasing them out to interested traders. This means that the popular cafe and shop Kellys have in Peterculter will also be closing its doors, unless someone else decides to take it over as a cafe. Unfortunately, with the recent closure of the Cocoa Ooze chocolate shop and cafe in that village, Culter folk will no longer have anywhere in the village to pop in for a coffee.

The life memories of many Cults-Culter folk are bound up with the store, many having had their first work experience there doing ‘Saturday jobs’ while still at school, and many having then progressed to working fulltime with them - there are currently at least four staff members who have been with the firm over 25 years. And the “Kelly’s experience” goes even further afield - whilst he was a guest at The Marcliffe Hotel, visiting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov enquired where his breakfast ‘rowies’ came from and sent someone to Kelly’s to buy some. PM Margaret Thatcher, however, went a step further when she was staying at The Marcliffe - she decided to visit the iconic bakery herself to buy her own rowies!

Managing Director Nicholas Kelly said: “The decision by my family to lease the shop was taken after long and careful consideration, and only once it had been confirmed that Sainsburys is the best brand to uphold the tradition of quality retailing in Cults. Central to the decision to approach Sainsburys was the confidence we have in them as a high quality and ethical retailer and this, coupled with its strong community and charity work, were real drivers for our family.”

Sainsburys’ Acquisition Surveyor Andrew McPhail said: “Sainsburys is delighted to have the opportunity to open a new convenience store in Cults, continuing our investment in great high street locations throughout the North-East. Sainsburys is well aware of the long-standing retail tradition that has been established by the Kelly family and is honoured to be continuing this. Sainsburys will look to work closely with the Kelly family to ensure that this acquisition takes place smoothly, and that Cults will continue to benefit from a high quality food offer.”

Sainsburys is an even older company than Kelly’s, having been established in 1869. Nick Kelly’s belief in them as an ethical retailer appears to be backed up by their being the UK’s largest retailer of RSPCA Freedom Food, being a Fairtrade retailer with many of their ‘own-brands’ being Fairtrade, and investing in Scotland by annually taking in £600m of Scottish products from 140 Scottish suppliers. It is hoped that if Sainsburys plans for Cults are approved by Aberdeen City Council, the new store would be open by this summer.