A BRIDPORT bakers’ shop has closed its doors for the last time after a decline in trade sliced into profits.

Regular customers were this week dismayed to find that Punch and Judy’s in South Street was shut and its shelves empty of bread, cakes, pies and pasties.

Owner Steve Lawrence says that the recession and competition from supermarkets has taken its toll.

He added the disruption from the gas main works, which have closed the road completely, was the final straw.

With the lease coming to an end next week, he is now focusing on his business at the West Street shop and bakery and his baker’s in Axminster.

Mr Lawrence says it is too soon to say whether any jobs will be lost.

A notice in the window of the historic shop opposite Bucky Doo Square informs customers of the closure and thanks regulars for their loyalty.

Mr Lawrence, who has run Punch and Judy for more than six years and who used to work for the previous owner, Michael Hussey, said he believes that South Street has nothing to bring people in.

He said: “Other than on a Saturday, when it is heaving, there are no decent-sized shops. If anything opens up it is another food establishment or a charity shop.

“The gas works have had a massive effect, even when they were down at the far end of the road.

“They have accounted for a 20 per cent drop in my trade at least, and overall turnover is down by 30 percent.

“This has been a long and difficult decision to make and a lot of tears have been shed. But I didn’t want to gamble with another 15 years.

“We have to put the resources into West Street and the bakery to secure ourselves. It has been a steady decline. The recession has really started to bite here.”

He added: “Some businesses are saying they will soldier on, but I am not prepared to. I say good luck to anyone who takes it on.”

Mr Lawrence, who lives in Beaminster, paid tribute to his regular customers and said he would be back on South Street – with a market stall selling his wares.

He said: “I would like to thank my local customers and I am sorry to disappoint them. They can still find us in West Street or at the market.”

A spokesman for Palmers Brewery, which owns the premises, said that the shop had been re-let to be run as a business ‘quite similar to the existing one’ and that it is not a charity shop.