SOUTHEND’S oldest department store is set to become a bar and restaurant.

Ravens, in Clifftown Road, will close at the end of October after 120 years of serving the town.

The store launched a half-price sale this month ahead of the closure of the business, which has been run by four generations of current managing director, Neil Raven’s family.

It has been an emotional time for Mr Raven as he approaches his retirement at the age of 61.

He said: “We’ve been very busy because of the sale. The building will become a bar and restaurant but I’m not sure the buyer is ready to announce his plans yet. We intend to handover in mid-November.

“We shut the gift areas and have fewer staff. We’re getting low on stuff and are just on the second and first floors now. We’ll eventually be just on the ground floor. We have a few gifts left but we’re getting low.”

Mr Raven added: “It’s been a very emotional time. Very traumatic because people are upset about the closure. I have mixed emotions. I thought it would calm down after a couple of weeks but it hasn’t stopped since we announced the closure. People are coming in and wanting to talk about the closure. It’s difficult because they all want us to carry on.

“I’ll be able to put my feet up at Christmas though, after 40 years. I won’t know what to do with myself.”

The store had 16 members of staff, with some having now left ahead of the closure.

Mr Raven previously cited competition from online traders as being a large element in his decision to retire announced in June.

After telling his host of loyal customers about the closure, he said: “This hasn’t been an easy decision and is something we have thought long and hard about.”

It follows the impending closure of Havens department store in Hamlet Court Road.

Nigel Havens also took the decision to sell the historic building and retire, also blaming the pressures of competition from the internet.The store, which opened in 1920, is set to become a community centre for Age Concern.