Thousands of people turned out to see TV chef Mary Berry open furniture retailer Barker and Stonehouse’s new store and head office.
Barker and Stonehouse have moved back to their roots with the new £4.5m premises in Stockton, as that is where the business was established in the 1940s.
James Barker, managing director, told The Yorkshire Post that the opportunity to take on this site came up 18 months ago.
He said: “Originally, the business did first start in Stockton-on-Tees in 1946, so if you like we’re going back to our roots a little bit.”
Mr Barker, whose grandfather Charles Barker co-founded the business along with Alex Stonehouse, said that the new premises was a good opportunity as it stands on the entrance of a good retail park and is also an accessible site.
He also admitted that moving their head office from Middlesbrough back to Stockton-on-Tees also had a bit of nostalgic value to it.
Barker and Stonehouse now has nine stores across the UK and employs over 350 people. Mr Barker attributes the firms growth to being an independent family-run business.
He added: “We’ve always tried to invest in the future, we’ve not got short-term aims, we’ve always thought long term.
“We’ve got some great staff here, really good management and we’ve tried to foster that over the years.”
Despite the major investment Mr Barker is not looking too far ahead and remains focused on settling down into the new premises.
“We just want to get this one settled down first, its been a very big investment for us,” he said.
The 48,270 sq ft store at Teesside Retail Park features three floors of retail space, a living roof and wall and many sustainable features – including specially designed lighting and heat recovery systems which reduce the store’s carbon footprint by 46 per cent.
Well-known restaurateur, Daryl Chadwick is operating the third floor café and the huge living wall and roof was designed by award-winning landscape designer Will Quarmby from Thirsk.
Mr Barker said that they try to use local firms as often as they can and that was also the case for this investment. He said: “Everything in the building has been built locally, from Durham down to North Yorkshire. Its all been happening locally and they’ve done a great job.
“We’ve always been like that, any products that we import we try and make sure they go through Teesport. It has been a big thing for us, we want to keep it local.”
More than 3,500 people came out to see Mary Berry open the store and cut a sofa shaped cake. Mr Barker said the reason why they chose Ms Berry was due to the fact that she captures everything great about the home.
He said: “Mary has got an innate sense of style about her.
“Soon as people found out that she was going to open the store, all the staff and all our customers have been absolutely delighted by that.”
Looking back, Mr Barker says that he likes to think that his grandfather would be proud to see the business where it is today.
“I’d like to think he would be happy with what first of all his son Richard did with it, he brought it on enormously over the last sort of 30 years.
“I’d like to think he’d be happy with where we’ve got to really,” said Mr Barker.
He added that the economy was better than it was five years ago and the fact that Barker and Stonehouse had a reliable name was what helped get them through the recession.
The dream that took off
The furniture retailer was established by two RAF men, Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse, when they opened their first store on Bishopton Lane, Stockton, in early 1946.
Charles Barker’s son, Richard Barker, is the current chairman. He joined the company in 1960 and went on to effect a management buy-out in 1974 acquiring Frank Barker’s and Alex Stonehouse’s shares making him majority shareholder and managing director of the business.
Richard Barker’s son, James, is now managing director. He joined in 1991 after a couple of years working with advertising moguls, Saatchi & Saatchi and a stint at New York store, Macy’s.