'My family firm was destroyed by horror blaze that ravaged Corn Exchange - now I'm back in business'
His family ran one of Doncaster’s best known market retailers for generations.
But Doncaster businessman Andy Stancliffe has switched from chops and beef to chairs and beds to try to keep the family retail tradition going in the 21st century.
Andy first started work on Doncaster Market as a 15 year old in the early 1980s at the family’s Stancliffe Butchers stall on the market, which had been run by both his father and his grandfather before him, initially going into business there in 1952. he had been working there at weekends aged 12.
But that tradition came to a juddering halt in the 1990s.
“We left after the corn exchange burned down.” said Andy. “The truth is, trading had been quite difficult around that time any way. It was around the time that people were worried about what was then known as mad cow disease, or BSE, and that did hit business.
“But someone did buy the business from us, which left us with some money.
“After that, I went to Torquay and worked in pubs and on the market for a few years, before coming back to Doncaster.”
After running shops near the market and on Scot Lane, and then one in Barnsley, 2008, Andy set his own furniture business – Lakeside Furniture Direct – in 2008. Based at the Lakeside Village, they sold garden furniture, initially seven days a week.
That continued for several years, until he decided to concentrate his sales at Lakeside on weekends and school holidays – the busiest periods.
With the time that freed up, he has now set up a town centre shop too – but selling household furniture like chairs, beds and ornaments.
He said: “I moved from running discount shops into furniture. Initially that was trading every day at Lakeside, but then we decided to concentrate on the busy times.
“Then I decided to set up a furniture store on Waterdale. The idea is that is would be something for everyone, and there’s a bit of everything. A lot of people refer to us as an Aladdin’s Cave, some call it bling.”
The stock is made up of furniture and gifts.
He said he has started to sell a lot of what he describes as ‘industrial stuff’ – items made from old industrial items. He says they have been growing in popularity.
An example is the shop is a seat, perhaps the height of a bar stool, but manufactured from a metal milk churn with a retro-style steel tractor seat fixed on the top. Other examples include cabinets and sideboards made from recycled items. But the best sellers are mirrored furniture and marble effect items.
“We try to keep prices low and we’re like to talk to people. A lot just come in for a chat, often people who have known us since we were butchers. My dad, John still comes in and works here. He’s 77.
“I’m not really into computers. I like to talk to people are provide good customer service.”
Andy, whose shop also employs his daughter, Sophie, and two other staff, also takes his business to country fairs.
He believes trading at Waterdale is improving, with major development going on nearby, such as the new museum and library, and a cinema.
He already finds an increase in football in the area around Christmas, when the Cast theatre pantomime is running.
“There is a lot of work going on around here,” he said. “They do need to drive people to this part of town as well as the Frenchgate Centre. This part of town used to be thriving 30 years ago. But things get harder and harder in retail as internet shopping gets more and more popular. We have to be competitive on prices and different to everyone else.
“In the summer garden furniture is still the main thing that we do – but the shop on Waterdale keeps us going in winter.”
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