Hartlepool businessman celebrates 40 with blinded shop after surviving recessions and pandemic
This weekend marks four decades that Stephen Close of Just Blinds has been delivering bespoke products to homes and businesses in Hartlepool.
Since 1981, the company has sold and installed over 60,000 blinds, most of which were made in their own workshop at its York Road premises.
Owner Stephen said success was far from guaranteed when he joined the business, which was then part of the Apollo Blinds franchise.
But over the years, she has built a solid reputation and a clientele based on positive word of mouth.
Stephen, 61, said: “I had been unemployed for a while and tried all kinds of jobs.
“My wife had a part-time accountant job at a franchise store and I applied to head office.”
He was successful, first working in their Billingham branch.
But after three months the opportunity presented itself to take over the Hartlepool store and then into the Middleton Grange shopping center.
Stephen, who had previously worked in a chemical plant until it closed, added: “It was a high risk.
“The country was just coming out of recession and I built my house to borrow money.”
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In 1983, the company began to manufacture its own line of vertical blinds, and in early 1985, roller blinds followed.
They still make the majority of the blinds they sell by hand.
After 12 years the company moved to its current location and 10 years ago Stephen became independent.
Over time, greater purchasing power of customers has led to more choice and more outlets instead of being limited to department stores.
Stephen added, “It took us a few years to start the business, but once we established ourselves it just got a little easier.
“I’ve been through three recessions now and I’m out on the other side.
“We have always relied on word of mouth and service is key.
“We take care of a lot of the same people and are now going through the third generation of families.”