Tenacity that has reaped rewards for YLC

EVERY budding entrepreneur who has failed to secure a loan to establish the company of their dreams can take heart from the story of The Yorkshire Linen Company.

When others would have been crushed by rejections, the team behind Yorkshire Linen Company refused to give up.

Two decades later, they’re enjoying the fruits of their tenacity.

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The owners of the Yorkshire Linen Company, who were originally turned down by a number of banks for a start-up loan, are marking 20 years in business with a £200,000 investment programme.

The company, which is owned and run by Ross and Kirsteen Leventhal, opened their first store in Market Street, Halifax, in February 1993.

After making steady progress, the company moved to the town’s King Edward Street in 1999.

The company, which today is based on Hornbeam Park, in Harrogate, owns 43 outlets in the UK, Spain and Portugal.

It employs a workforce of more than 300 people and has a turnover of £18m.

Over the next few months, the company is refurbishing its Leigh and Scarborough stores.

It’s also moving its two Hull stores into one, bigger, city centre operation.

Last year the company spent more than £300,000 upgrading its stores in Harrogate, Leeds and Hartlepool.

It also opened new stores in Congleton, Cheshire, and its second store on the Algarve in Portugal.

Mr Leventhal said yesterday: “Twenty years ago, we were turned down by a number of banks (who we had approached) to help get our business off the ground.

“We literally had to beg and borrow the £10,000 needed to open our first store in Halifax from family and friends.

“This knock-back made us even more determined to create a successful business.

“Six months after the opening of Halifax, we opened our second store in Leeds.

“I ran that while Kirsteen ran Halifax.

“It was incredibly hard work. In addition to running the shops we also had to go on buying expeditions. It was a seven days a week operation.

“Our business philosophy is simple. We supply stylish and quality bedding, bath linen and soft furnishings at the lowest possible prices, and we put the customer first.”

In 2007, the Leventhals acquired The Linen Warehouse, which owned and operated nine stores in the North West.

And, with Spain and Portugal proving popular locations for Britain’s buying overseas property, the company opened stores in the Costas and the Algarve.

In recent years, it has also developed a successful online business.

Mr Leventhal added: “The high street has changed beyond recognition over the last two decades.

“Many of the household names we grew up with have disappeared.

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy out there, it isn’t.

“However, we believe in the high street.

“If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be investing in our stores or opening new ones.

“Last year we opened our first Cheshire store, and it’s proving to be a very good move.

“We have a rolling refurbishment programme and we are always looking at new locations.

“As part of our celebrations we are giving something back to our customers.

“Next weekend we are slashing all the prices in all our stores by 20 per cent.”

Linda Shreeve, one of the company’s directors, said that around 100 staff were employed in the company’s 12 Yorkshire stores.

She added: “The ethos is to keep it (the business) cash rich, and to treat our suppliers well.

“We play fair and we don’t over-expand.”

The Yorkshire Linen Company owns the Darley Mill Centre, a 17th century water mill on the banks of the River Nidd near Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire.

It has been restored to offer three floors of shopping space and a restaurant.

The Grade II listed building, which dates from 1767, was acquired in January 2009 by retailer Mr Leventhal.

The mill, which nestles in the valley by the River Nidd, retains many of its original machinery.

It has a water-wheel which dates from 1874.

The building was restored in 1985 and turned into a retail outlet selling a variety of linens, crafts and clothing.

Four years ago, 25 jobs were created following the mill’s £1.5m transformation.

In 2009, the former Emmerdale and Bad Girls actress Claire King launched the new mill and helped to raise money for its adopted charity, St Michael’s Hospice.