Homemade merchandising units, some serious elbow g rease, and expansion plans are now well underwa y – our independent hardware retailer takes a step back in time with part 23 of his stories from the shop floor


only three TV channels, no mobile phones, no internet, and the home computer (depending on the model) needed bolting to a cassette tape recorder and a household television set to make it work. Streamlined it was not. That was the world we lived in. Oh, at our house we had a VCR, which made us feel ultra-space-age, and I could see the potential of screen entertainment on tap, but I was in a minority.. What’s a VCR youy. What’s a V ask? It was an 80s thing. The world was on the cusp of change and I was determined not to be resigned to the past just because we could survive in the present, especially where the shop was concerned. And that year Easter was later than it was in 2018.

Not off the shelf

As you know, for some time I’dw,, had a picture in my mind of the new shop: walls loaded with stock on pegboar d and shelves, a shiny r,, lots of space for

for some red-painted floor, lots of s

the public, and an abundance of light, shining like a beacon to all those needing spar e parts for their homes. But there was something missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I think it’s because I was too busy, too involved to see what,y,, too involved to se in the trade, was referred to as “the bleeding obvious”. Then one day the



hings were different in 1982. Back then we had digits, but not much in the way of digital gadgets. There were

boss asked where else, apart from on the walls, we wer e supposed to display and keep the stock. Yo

ou see wha

You see what’s happening here? He’s actually showing some excitement about the expansion plans. It was a eureka! moment, albeit one that’s taken me 36 years to realise. Anyhow

w, w, he had a point,

and a pretty big one: if we wanted an emporium that was more than a wall-browsing gallery in a tourist information centre, then we would need a floor-standing shelf unit. I priced one up: we were talking mortgages here.And pre-loved units were as rare as a snowball in hell. Some time ago we’d bought loads of white fish & chip paper to wrap nails that we sold by weight. It was cheaper than paper bags but, when the edges started turning brown, I’d taken to using it as writing paper on which I distinctly remember designing a display gondola. I may still have it somewhere. Yeah, sad, I know

as writing paper Ye w..

So, on Easter Sunday I moved back the furniture in the incredibly small house (that I shared with the motor engineer ’s daughter), and unloaded the materials that I’d br ought home from the shop. The project I was determined to construct would be six feet long, four feet deep and high, and could be easily dismantled for transport. The modular ends were made from 3”x2” and 1”x6” timber, forming an inverted letter T. So yes, I built a shop display unit in my lounge. The backs wer e

r,, forming an r,,

lined with pegboard (to add further functionality) and each side had four strips of Spur shelving wall bars. Sanded and varnished, with some bog-standard white melamine boards, it would look the biz, and conceal from the public just how limited our financial resources were. The following Sunday

wing Sunday, now on a bit y,

of a roll, I built another one. The rest of them I constructed on the premises. Satisfaction? You bet!


“He had a pretty big point... If we wanted an emporium tha

an emporium that t

was more than a wall- browsing gallery in a tourist information cen-

tourist information cen- tre, then we would need a floor

were talking mortgages here...”

Office hours

Then there was the office. Sometime in the 19th century it had been a stone-built fr ee-standing building at the end of an alleyway (of dubious r eputation, I’m told) and, 100 years


, its two windows were still in place, with original glass. And its door (now known as brace and latch style) was still in use. With the rest of the pr emises all smartened, this was the fly in the paint (the office, not the door), so one weekend the motor engineer’s daughter and I set to work gutting and burning and tipping. Under the decades of dust we found many old books, mostly ancient hardwar e catalogues, and a workshop manual for a Ford Cortina Mark 2. I didn’t like throwing this away

tyle) was still in use. W Wiith the way

We worked overnight and, by l unday, the walls were battened and lined, the floor covered with pretend lino, and the sink properly plumbed, so no more emptying the bowl into the outside drain. All the room now needed was a coat or two of that old Silexine emulsion paint I once mentioned. Together with a nTogether with a new striplight, this was yet another area for which sunglasses were required. y,, so I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. Now polished, the boss’ homemade desk (with smart looked

it useful. We

Sunday y,

y,, as someone would surely find e worked overnight and, by late-

mentioned. To Okay

dovetail-jointed drawers) ff

like a statement piece with its wood grain-ef

rain-effect Armabord laminate. At this time the old pot-bellied stove was still in place, which I painted with Joy heatproof stove black. It looked superb, like an industrial fashion icon much revered by present-day home designers. Unfortunately

y,, after a couple of

a f loor-standing shelf unit. I priced one up: we were talking mortgages

uses, all the black paint simply disappeared. It was never tarted-up again. I only wish I’d taken a photo of it in its Sunday best.

Manual shift

Car-parking in those days was free; we didn’t realise how fortunate we were. Anyhow, whilst walkingw,, whilst walk through the car park by the Co-op, I spotted a rather well-kept Mark 2 Cortina. I wonder what its owner thought when they returned to find a workshop manual resting on its windscreen.

27 APRIL 2018 DIY WEEK 13

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