After more than 50 years in business, Gay-Lyfe, in Levenshulme, Manchester, is closing down.
The pet and aquatic store was first opened by George and Norma Ormrod in 1965 and their nephew, Mark Bootes, joined the business in 1980. It sold animals of all shapes and sizes, but it was tropical fish where Mark carved out a niche for the business.
According to a report in the Manchester Evening News, in the 1980s, Mark and his uncle started importing tropical fish from all over the world, including Peru, Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria. They would pack freight boxes full of fish to supply their own shop as well as other aquatic shops around the Midlands and North West.
Mark carried on after George and Norma retired around 15 years ago but
the internet, changing shopping habits and discount stores have gradually led to a decline in shoppers visiting Gay-Lyfe.
“Behind the shop in Levenshulme were rows of back-to-back houses, and everyone had pets,” Mark told the Evening News. “They had fish tanks, budgies, all sorts of things. It was like a club. Things have changed over the years. Kids used to have pets and now they have iPads.
“A lot of people in the area don’t keep pets any more. That’s one of the reasons why we’re closing.”
But, although sales have declined, fascination in the shop’s unusual name hasn’t waned over the years.
FUNNY PHONE CALLS
“Everyone knows Gay-Lyfe in Manchester and people have always asked where the name came from,” said Mark.
“I remember one man didn’t like the name so he turned the Gay Lyfe carrier bag inside out!
“My uncle was the one who came up with it, and in those days it meant colourful and happy. That’s all there is to it really…
“We have had some funny phone calls over the years. A lot of people ringing up asking us where the best gay bars are in Manchester and us explaining we’re a pet shop.”
Although the shop is closing Mark will continue to import tropical fish from around the world with his colleague, James Best, the Evening News reported.