Martyn Guille, of Martyn Guille Silversmiths, at Les Vauxbelets, situated next to the chapel, has received an advocates’ letter warning of legal action for allegedly passing off his goods as official Little Chapel merchandise.
Mr Guille said the move was ‘the culmination of the Little Chapel Foundation trying to undermine my business’.
The business has been based at Les Vauxbelets for about 15 years, and Mr Guille selling a range of products, including hand-made jewellery, magnets, decorations, candles and postcards with images of the Little Chapel. He said they were always popular with tourists.
‘The legal threat came as a complete shock,’ he said. ‘The claim that I am passing off my souvenirs as official merchandise is ridiculous – there are shops all over the island selling goods with the Little Chapel on, including the Guernsey Information Centre.’
He said the clockmaker business which operated from the site for 40 years previously also sold such merchandise.
‘It’s really sad that is has got to this stage, as I’ve invested hugely to support the attraction,’ said Mr Guille.
The shop originally had two toilets, and after a tour of the chapel, Mr Guille said that there would be queues of 20 to 30 people, which meant visitors had limited time to shop.
Last year, Mr Guille transformed his clock showroom into a separately-accessed toilet block, with free of charge facilities, including disabled and baby changing facilities, and keys to be given to guides for visitor use.
‘I also had a defibrillator installed on the corner of the toilet block – the guided tours often see older people visiting, so the new block worked out perfectly really,’ he said.
The foundation took on the site in 2016, and later applied for £500,000-worth of work to create an interpretation centre, accessible paths, rebuild Deodat’s castle, entrance building and gateway and toilet block.
Mr Guille said that he had seen an increase in the number of visitors since the foundation announced the restoration of the landmark, and he would regularly clean up the area and empty the bins.
‘I’ve always been happy to do this, as I believe it improves the area and enhances the attraction for visitors and locals,’ he said.
‘This situation is stressful and is taking up so much of my time, when I should be enjoying the first year back as a normal trading year.
'As an independent business, claims like this can be extremely damaging, and I’m also disappointed by the seemingly personal nature of the letter and threat.
'It’s a great shame that my years of work are seemingly worth nothing and that the relationship, which up to now has been very strong, has been impacted.
'As a proud Guernseyman, I will continue to do my bit to make the Little Chapel an excellent local attraction to visit, and hope that those members of the foundation who are pursuing this see sense.'
Little Chapel Foundation chairman John Silvester declined to comment when contacted by the Guernsey Press.
The foundation was gifted the Little Chapel site in 2016 by the De La Salle brothers, a Catholic religious order which established itself at Les Vauxbelets in the early years of the 20th century. It had previously been the responsibility of the Blanchelande College trustees.
Its aims include being custodians of the Little Chapel, relationships with Blanchelande College, and fundraising for and managing the restoration project on the chapel.
The foundation is still working on the long-term project to raise some £500,000 to fully restore the chapel, and enhance the area.
It has claimed to have lost some £70,000 in donations and merchandise sales over the two seasons of the Covid pandemic, but had been supported with £20,000 from the Social Amenity fund and further grants, including £10,000 from the Sarnia Memorial Trust.