Video: End of an era as family-run Norwich furniture shop to close after 93 years

The furniture business, M F Reeve in Magdalen Street, which is closing and the building will become two shops and flats. Picture: Denise Bradley The furniture business, M F Reeve in Magdalen Street, which is closing and the building will become two shops and flats. Picture: Denise Bradley

Friday, March 21, 2014
11:27 AM

A family-run furniture shop which traded through the Second World War will close its doors for good next month.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

Nigel Reeve sits in comfort as he prepares for his retirement after 48 years at the family furniture business, M F Reeve in Magdalen Street. Picture: Denise BradleyNigel Reeve sits in comfort as he prepares for his retirement after 48 years at the family furniture business, M F Reeve in Magdalen Street. Picture: Denise Bradley

MF Reeve, in Magdalen Street, Norwich, took delivery of sofas by horse and cart when it was founded in 1921 by May Florence Reeve.

Her grandson, Nigel Reeve, 64, is the current chairman of the company but he said his sons had their own ambitions and he wanted them to be happy.

Christopher, 34, is manager of a superstore in Peterborough and Robert, 32, is emigrating to wed his Australian fiancee.

Mr Reeve said he had mixed feelings about calling time on a business built up over three generations, but took comfort in warm words from customers with fond memories of the shop.

May Florence Reeve, founder of MF Reeve furniture store in Magdalen Street, Norwich, with her daughter Edna and son Russell.May Florence Reeve, founder of MF Reeve furniture store in Magdalen Street, Norwich, with her daughter Edna and son Russell.

“If you put your heart and soul into a business you feel guilty about leaving,” he explained. “A lot of people have come in and thanked me for the last 40 years.

“I do deal a lot with elderly ladies and they know they can trust us to do what they ask.”

He said he would miss the banter with customers, and recalled the weekly payment books people used to save up with.

“Customers are proud of their books,” he said. “They don’t give them back to me.”

A family firm

MF Reeve Ltd was founded by Norwich woman May Florence Reeve in 1921.

At 6ft tall and working in what was a predominantly male trade at the time, she was a striking sight buying furniture at auctions in Exchange Street.

Her husband, Arthur, helped to run the business, but had his own career as a compositor for the Eastern Daily Press –a role involved in the printing process.

Mrs Reeve first bought 150 Magdalen Street, and when neighbouring 152 became available she took out a £4,000 Barclays loan to buy it in 1956.

It is one of the few times that the company borrowed money in its 93-year history.

She eventually handed running of the business to her children, Edna and Russell – the father of current chairman Nigel Reeve.

Over the years the company has also sold toys and offered removal services as well as furniture, offering a weekly payment book system to help people save up for bigger purchases.

The shop also used to sell toys, which were all delivered on Christmas Eve.

Mr Reeve did his apprenticeship at WJ Aldiss of Fakenham and joined the family business in 1968.

Rivals have come and gone over the years, but Mr Reeve said customer service with a personal touch kept people coming back.

He explained he would customise furniture at no extra cost – with thinner arms or a softer cushion – and match prices of out-of-town stores.

While there were difficulties when Magdalen Street became one-way, he said he kept a loyal customer base and healthy finances. “I’ve always been careful to never overstretch myself,” he said.

“In the last 50 years we never borrowed money and we just don’t get into debt for anything.”

He said he will volunteer to mend furniture at the hospital when he retires on April 25, and spend more time with wife Pamela, 61.

The building will become two shops and eight flats.

3 comments

  • I personally think its very sad, we no longer have stores that actually care about the customers unlike Reeves.

    Report this comment

    Lynda

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • I assume that those sofa's must have been in stock since 1921.

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • About time too, the shop still thinks its 1910

    Report this comment

    Blocked User

    Friday, March 21, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Norfolk Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 24°C

min temp: 16°C

Five-day forecast

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT