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Coulsdon Home Hardware keeping business in the family

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FAMILY-RUN businesses may be a waning tradition nationally, but one family in Coulsdon is keeping it very much alive.

Geoff Harris founded Coulsdon Home Hardware in 1954, and it looks set to remain in the family for at least a third generation.

His son Alan Harris and his wife Lynne have run the shop since 1977 and plan to hand over to their son Simon, 31, when they retire.

Alan, 61, said he never doubted he would follow his father's footsteps.

"I just assumed that was what I would do," he said.

"I know recently my dad said how surprised he was one day when someone asked what I wanted to do when I was about ten, and I said I wanted to work in the shop."

Unlike his own children, who have known the shop all their lives, Alan remembers when his father started the business in Brighton Road in 1954.

The family, including young Alan, sister Brenda and mum Connie, moved into a flat upstairs.

Alan remembered: "The counter had three big drawers in it. I used to pull out the drawers so I could stand on it and see over the counter.

"I would come around after school, so I grew up being involved.

Since then the shop has moved to Chipstead Valley Road, expanded its services and endured good economic times and bad.

Alan said: "A lot of hard work has gone into it and attention to detail.

"We have tried very much to listen to customers' needs, so the shop has evolved around what people in Coulsdon want."

The shop has also housed Simon's home-building business, Signature Homes, since 2011.

The father and son companies also work together to provide kitchens and bathrooms; Coulsdon Home Hardware has a showroom, while Signature Homes does the installing.

Alan explained: "Simon left university with a degree in music technology and decided to start a building company.

"He started getting requests for bathrooms and kitchens and could not find a supplier who supplied quality at the right price. So he spoke to us and said, 'Why don't you open a showroom?'"

Alan's youngest son, Nathan, 20, is doing an apprenticeship in fine carpentry and plans to join the business when he's finished. Middle son Andrew, 28, is a graphic designer and does the store's advertising.

The store has also been boosted by its membership in another kind of family, a national co-operative of 400 hardware shops, Home Hardware.

Alan said: "We work together, so it gives us the buying power of 400 shops and enables us to do very good promotions."

Keen to be part of the community, the shop also offers work experience to students from local schools.

Alan said: "Quite a few of them have gone on to become Saturday staff for us; it is good to see them develop confidence."

When Alan does hand the reins over, he has no doubts that he will miss his work, saying: "I very much like being involved with people, that is really my delight, dealing with people and trying to help them solve their problems."

A fourth generation is on the way up: Alan's grandchildren Maisie and Charlie are two and six months old.

Geoff Harris, meanwhile, now 91 and living in Aversham, can look back proudly on the legacy he has left.

Alan said: "He is very proud, very pleased, from the humble beginnings that he started with."

Coulsdon Home Hardware keeping business in the family


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