Our member business Calverts of Taunton are celebrating 75 years of business success this month, and our Membership & Events Manager Bethan was delighted to visit Dennis and Susan Calvert recently to pass on congratulations from all at the Taunton Chamber on reaching such a wonderful business milestone. Bethan enjoyed a tour of the store, plus the opportunity to hear some anecdotes from Dennis about his time as President of the Taunton Chamber in the 1980’s when he headed up the Committee alongside fellow local businessman Mr Greenslade.
75 years ago on 14th November 1944, Dennis Calvert (Senior) and his wife opened CALVERTS of Taunton in Station Road. The business had been acquired from Mr Pearce who had run the business for some 26 years as a furniture store.
Dennis Calvert who had served his apprenticeship at Bainbridges of Newcastle came to Hatchers of Taunton where he met his wife Annie, who had bought an apprenticeship there. They were married in 1924 and moved to Croydon in Surrey to ‘better themselves’ where they remained until the war. When war was imminent, they returned to Somerset to Annie’s home in Stoke St Gregory.
Furniture being unavailable to the retail trade, Mr Pearce had introduced household ironmongery and second hand furniture, so the shop was exactly the business they were looking for. Mr Calvert acquired stock from wholesalers and customers who had either been bombed out, or newly married who had not found homes to move into and had dockets to acquire furniture. He put the items into stock with the proviso he could show it on the sales floor.
The whole family were excited with the prospect of their new business – their children Alan who was 15 and Dennis (Junior) 11 both wanted to be involved.
When Alan left school, he joined his parents in the business. He was eager to be able to drive and did deliveries in their 1934 Austin Van, which had been a milk float in a previous life.
It was necessary to take £8.00 a day. On their first day they took £32.00! Whilst writing to their children, doing National Service or holidays etc they would disclose turnover in degrees, for instance £32.00 would have been 32 degrees – quite cold and £78.00 as 78 degrees – much warmer today!
Dennis (Junior) joined the Company in 1953 after doing National Service. In 1960 Dennis’ wife Heather joined the company and having spent several years in the fashion trade with Jaegar, introduced the soft furnishings department, which quickly grew and is today ably managed by Lin Cleaves.
Over the years Dennis and Annie were keen to improve their property and at a time when you could not get building permits were able to only have small improvements made. Restrictions ended in 1953 and showrooms were then developed and opened for a wider selection and display.
Regretfully Dennis (Senior) passed away in 1969 followed by Annie in 1975. Dennis (Junior) and his wife Heather then took over the reins.
CALVERTS over the years has expanded along Station Road, acquiring adjoining properties (Pitman’s Butchers, Pearce’s Sweet Shop, Reed and Giles’ Fishmongers and Poole the Ironmongers) – now occupying an impressive frontage amounting to eight shop fronts with 25,000 square feet of showrooms arranged over two floors. With its own customer car parking accessed off Canal Road, CALVERTS is now a destination store in its own right; a far cry from the single shop front 75 years ago.
Over the years, CALVERTS has developed a loyal customer base offering Taunton and the surrounding area quality furniture, upholstery, beds, floor coverings and window treatments from design led manufacturers at affordable prices; always evolving and developing their ranges to suit changing styles in interior design.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
So, what is the secret of CALVERTS success over the last 75 years? Dennis Calvert attributes it to the contribution of their staff: “we have always had excellent and knowledgeable staff who give honest and impartial advice to our customers. CALVERTS has a family feel and the staff are very much part of this. Some have been with us for over 40 years.”
CALVERTS remains a family run business with Dennis, Heather and Annie and Dennis’ granddaughter Susan, joining the business three and half years go. Along with Helen Dugdale, Store Manager, and with the support of all the staff, the business is looking forward to an exciting future on Taunton’s Station Road…..