Changes ahead for fam­ily-run busi­ness

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Vision -

Blun­dell’s Fur­ni­ture will close this Septem­ber and will re­open – but not as we know it.

The fam­ily-run busi­ness first opened a store in July 1947, oc­cu­py­ing the same Sit­ting­bourne High Street build­ing where it can be found now.

Founder Jack Blun­dell was de­mobbed from the Royal Air Force early in 1947, hav­ing served in the Sec­ond World War in Canada, train­ing Cana­dian pi­lots to fly Bri­tish planes. While there he met his wife Eileen.

He spent his fi­nal years of the war as a squadron leader in Bari, Italy, fly­ing Dako­tas.

Af­ter be­ing de­mobbed the cou­ple used their sav­ings to join forces with Jack’s fa­ther Al­fred Blun­dell, who was manager of the Co-op fur­ni­ture store in East Street.

They took on the high street shop which had been used by the Home Guard dur­ing the war and spent a month clear­ing it out as it was a wreck af­ter the war.

The doors opened in July 1947 and with hard work and ded­i­ca­tion they built a legacy that has stood the test of time.

Over the years, the fam­ily opened other stores in Sit­ting­bourne sell­ing nurs­ery goods, toys and fash­ion items in the 1960s. The last of these closed in 2009 when fam­ily mem­bers re­tired.

Robert Blun­dell and his wife Lisa have run the fur­ni­ture store for the past 15 years.

Lisa said: “Like any busi­ness you have to move with the times and in the last five years re­tail has changed, with in­creased use of the in­ter­net and trad­ing parks away from high streets.

“You have to look to the fu­ture.”

To that end, a num­ber of changes are planned, not least the re­de­vel­op­ment of the ex­ist­ing shop, which will re­open with a dif­fer­ent name. The ground floor re­tail area will be­come smaller and the rest of the build­ing is be­ing con­verted into four apart­ments.

Lisa con­tin­ued: “With the changes we can­not stay as a fur­ni­ture store so we are open­ing a new con­cept in the smaller shop in Oc­to­ber.

“We have tweaked the Blun­dell’s name and will be trad­ing as ARK In­te­ri­ors and Floor­ing by Blun­dell’s.

“The name Ark is taken from our daugh­ters’ ini­tials, keep­ing it per­sonal still as a fam­ily firm.

“The fur­ni­ture side of the busi­ness will be taken on­line, with a new on­line shop open­ing in 2018.”

A clos­ing down sale starts on Thurs­day, Septem­ber 7 and will be the last chance to buy with the of­fer of free delivery and free dis­posal of old goods.

There will be huge re­duc­tions and dis­counts on new fac­tory or­ders.

Any­thing pur­chased will still be un­der war­ranty and af­ter­care sup­port for cus­tomers will still be avail­able.

Lisa added: “We would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to thank all our cus­tomers for their sup­port over the years. Some of you just come in for a chat, which we find lovely of you.

“Sit­ting­bourne is chang­ing and we have to change with it. We are grate­ful as a fam­ily busi­ness to have sur­vived the last 70 years and, out of re­spect for the founders, we wanted to get to this mile­stone be­fore we changed.

“Eileen Blun­dell is now 92 and still takes an in­ter­est in the store. It is their legacy which we will take for­ward into the fu­ture in Sit­ting­bourne.”

For more, visit www. ark­in­te­ri­or­sand­floor­ing.co.uk

Blun­dell’s fur­ni­ture store in Sit­ting­bourne is cel­e­brat­ing its 70th an­niver­sary

Jack and Eileen Blun­dell mar­ried in Canada in 1943

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