A Family of Shopkeepers

Preparing to hand over the reins.

When my father retired from the RAF in October 1981, my parents decided they would like to open a shop, originally hoping for a DIY shop. We lived in Wymondham, Norfolk and there were already several well established DIY shops, so when a toy shop known as Variety Fare became available, they decided this would be a better idea.

The beginning of an era.

The premises were very small and they hoped to concentrate on models, accessories, toys, crafts and hobbies, but what to call the new business….. ‘m,a,t,c,h’……..???…….got it!!……and so ‘The Match Box’ was founded in January 1982.

With an advertising slogan – How many things can be fitted in ‘The Match Box’!

In the days when every little girl wanted ‘My Little Pony’

It soon became apparent that this business was not viable on its own in Wymondham, which was becoming a dormitory town to Norwich. A rep from one of the toy suppliers suggested that with the help of a buying group and perhaps opening a second premise in another town, the business was viable. He represented a company called ‘Centre Toys‘ in Leicester which had nearly forty members around the country and hinted that Dereham, which did not have a proper toy shop, should be considered. After a lot thought, both suggestions were adopted, The Match Box became a member of the buying group and opened in Dereham in the August bank holiday 1983.

Dereham High Street

The new shop was an immediate success and stock was able to be purchased at better prices through the buying group. In 1990-1 the premises were expanded with new building adding to the retail floor space and a new stock room upstairs.

In the meantime, my father had been invited onto the board of Centre Toys and became deputy chair until he had to retire from the board in 1992, as a result of ill health.

Devising a cunning plan with Secretary Norma, to get the best terms from suppliers.
And then off to the dance. Was this the reason for his heart attack!

Thought was then given to further expansion of the business and in autumn 1993, a new shop was opened in Norfolk Street, King’s Lynn, in the old premises of The House of Holland.

Opening day with the future directors

King’s Lynn opening day 1993 with two of my sons, Luke and Jacob.

In the meantime, the shop in Wymondham moved to larger premises in Damgate Street c.1985 and eventually closed in c.1996.

The nature of the toy business is very cyclical with three quarters of the annual income coming from the last quarter of the year. To try and reduce the dependence on the Christmas period a new income stream was required that fitted in with and added to the appeal of shopping in the stores. A founder member of the buying group who was retiring and selling his business suggested that the ideal solution to add to the mix was nursery ware and prams. It was agreed to adopt this and purchase his business in Boston, Lincs.

Boston

This proved to be not too successful. Travel between the shops become long and tedious, particularly in the summer months when traffic was heavy. Unemployment levels in the area were high and the customer base was not looking for quality products but the lowest price. However, the business became established on a sound footing with trade suppliers and this proved invaluable later when nursery outlets were opened in the Dereham and King’s Lynn shops.

Dereham

Now in 2021, the shop has undergone a name change, several premise changes from Wymondham, East Dereham, Boston and Kings Lynn. It also branched into Nursey goods, which have become the major selling products. Now operating as Youngsters World with an independent, DIY and model shop BJ Models in Kings Lynn, the business is owned and run by my Sister, Brother and Brother-in-Law, who always seek divine guidance when placing stock orders.

What is going to be a hit this Xmas?

This seems to be continuing a family tradition of shop keepers.

  • William Tranter (1849 -1949) and his wife Jane (Potter) ran a family grocery business in Kelvedon Road, Fulham, and later with his son Frederick and his wife Florence.
  • John Harvey 1862 – 1944, and his wife, Sarah Ann (nee Ayliffe), ran a green grocery business at 30 Fulham Palace Road, Fulham.
  • William Ayliffe 1775- 1835, (Grandfather of Sarah Ann), was a Shop keeper – Grocer in Luckington Wilts.
  • Charles Harvey 1901 -1962, managed a Butchers shop in Buckingham Palace Road .
  • My great uncle, Vincent Sanderson 1908 -?had a grocery shop in Wood Street, Sheffield.
  • My great aunt, Gladys Hunter, nee Sanderson, 1906 -?, ran a grocers shop with her daughter Jean and daughter in law Doreen in the Wincobank area of Sheffield.
  • Another great aunt Mabel Ingomells, nee Sanderson, 1905 -?, and her husband had a green grocers shop on Holme Lane, Sheffield.
  • My uncle Brian Harvey 1931 -2021, had a mobile grocery business in Stubbington, Hampshire.

Now we know why Napoleon called us a nation of shop keepers!

Toys from the past. A selection of handmade or almost antique toys belonging to family members