BUSINESS PROFILE – Barretts of Woodbridge
Barretts of Woodbridge
Barretts Strikes Gold
It was the year of the first moon landing and the last public performance by The Beatles but 1969 was also a locally significant year to remember, as Barretts of Woodbridge opened its doors for the first time and the rest – as they say – is history. Essential Suffolk finds out more
Shopping in Woodbridge today, 50 years on from when Jack and Ann Barrett first opened Barretts of Woodbridge, in what had previously been a grocer’s shop, independent traders are still thriving. “We’re proud to still be successfully trading in an era when many high streets are floundering and online shopping has become so popular” says Jill Barrett, second generation owner along with her fiancé and store manager Michael Grist. “Sharing the Thoroughfare here with other successful and well respected businesses like John Ives, Honey & Harvey and Woodbridge Kitchen Shop has meant we’ve been able to more than contribute to keeping town centre shopping alive and kicking in Woodbridge” added Michael.
And they’re right. While there are some expected high street names doing well in the town they don’t appear to be overpowering the unique and varied choices that local shoppers and visitors enjoy. So what’s the secret to this longevity? “We only employ the very nicest of people” says Michael “and they stay with us. We know our local customers and we warmly welcome visitors too. We don’t do pressure sales, and we put the customer’s best interests first”.
It’s these heart-felt family values that really are at the centre of everything at Barretts and you only have to browse the bedding or stroll through soft furnishings to enjoy genuine friendliness from a team offering traditional service and very current products and trends in beautiful furnishings, flooring, fabrics, curtains and home accessories.
But of course all of this had to start somewhere. When the shop opened it occupied just one half of its current footprint – 40 Thoroughfare – but tragedy struck when faulty wiring led to a fire engulfing the premises. “I was just a toddler at the time” explained Jill “and although the fire was obviously devastating my parents had the foresight to see it as an opportunity too and redesigned the showroom while temporarily trading from 1 Church Street just up the road”.
Thankfully the historic arched shop front survived and after just four days they were able to trade from both premises while further plans took root. The neighbouring business had been a shoe shop with a large rear extension and following the rebuilding and refurbishment of number 40, expansion into number 42 allowed for a dedicated carpet showroom and also a sparkling new bed department.
After running the business for 23 years Jill’s parents retired and her aunt and uncle took over. “Paddy & Ray ran the business from 1992. I worked in the shop after I had finished school and my sister Jane also worked here back in the 90s too” said Jill. “My mum still visits daily as she comes in to pick up our terrier Daisy every morning, and both my daughters, Vicky and Annie have worked here. It’s a real family business, Michael and I love working together. We are very different characters but we both share a passion
for constantly trying to improve the store and the services we offer”.
And what of the future? Barretts already offers a respected interior design service, and has recently kitted out the National Trust’s Tranmere House at Sutton Hoo with curtains as well as working with other significant venues. Most recently, they have carried out a refurbishment project at the McCarthy and Stone development Clarkson Court in Woodbridge. “It is the biggest project we have done,” said Michael. “It looks absolutely stunning. The home owners are delighted”.
Their ‘carbon footprint’ is also high on the list of Barretts’ priorities and this forward thinking company has already taken steps to reduce its impact on the environment. “We already have solar panels on the roof of the bedding department and we’ve scrapped plastic bags in favour of craft paper bags for all sales” says Jill. “It won’t be long before you see bedding on the shelves in fabric rather than plastic bags and we’re also looking to invest in a cardboard compactor in partnership with other businesses in the
Plus there’s continued support for a number of local charities and community events including Eve Appeal, Woodbridge Riverside Trust, Just 42 and sponsorship of the ever popular Woodbridge 10k race. “We’re at the heart of Woodbridge but we also have Woodbridge in our hearts”.