Thursday, February 28, 2013
Barnstaple business has sold acres of carpets and thousands of beds in half a century.
HALF a century ago Kings Carpets was a glimmer in the eye of Laurie Harvey, who moved from London with his wife Peggy to the town of Ilfracombe in the late 1950s.
But with £300 he borrowed from his mother, Kings Carpets was born on January 9, 1963, in a small shop rented for £4 a week in Ilfracombe High Street.
Mr Harvey set up Kings Carpets was set up in partnership with a carpet rep, and despite a particularly severe winter and the partnership dissolving after nine months, he persevered.
“The business really struggled to get established; my father was selling carpets in the day and fitting them at night,” said Martin Harvey, Mr Harvey’s son and managing director of the business.
“He hired a carpet fitter for three weeks, watching him and teaching himself how to do it to keep costs down.”
But as luck would have it, Mr Harvey’s hard graft paid off as carpets became all the rage.
“It was a good time to open; in the 1960s everyone had lino in the rooms and a carpet square in the middle,” said Martin.
“But in the mid 1960s fitted carpet became fashionable, and in 1966 the business expanded to Queen Street in Barnstaple.”
After several years in the town centre, Mr Harvey took a brave gamble and decided to take his chances on the edge of Barnstaple.
Martin said: “In 1970 Kings Carpets moved to Pottington, where it still is now, and it was probably one of the first out-of-town shops in Barnstaple.
“At this point everything was still in the town centre but my father saw which way the market was going; he was always ahead of his time.
“In the Queen Street shop everything was sold from samples, but he wanted to stock rolls of carpet.
“It was more of a cash-and-carry era in the 1970s; that was the trend at the time.”
The business, which Martin joined in 1974, expanded to include Bed Kingdom in the building next door, and since then had sold acres of carpet and thousands of beds.
“The carpet trade has changed since the early days and it’s a totally different industry now, but we are still going strong,” said Martin.
“I think the secret to our success is to always be kind and reasonable and put yourself out, not only for the customers but to your suppliers and colleagues.
“We have 15 members of staff here, some of whom have been here for a very long time.
“We are now serving the third generations of families who always come back here; I would say 80 per cent of our customers are repeat customers.”
Laurie and Peggy, who are now in their mid 80s, still take a keen interest in the business, and with Martin’s son Jack on board, the business is its third generation too.
“The people round here are lovely to deal with, and we will continue to provide them with a professional service for many years to come.”