'It will be a sad day': Family-run business set to close in town after 107 years
PUBLISHED: 08:29 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:32 03 April 2019
It is a name that has been synonymous with a town for more than a century.
Having traded in Lowestoft for 107-years, and been at the forefront of furniture retailing, an independent family-run business is set to close its doors this summer.
Cooks Furnishers are set to “gradually wind down” the business, which has been in the family for four generations, over the coming months.
The decision, which was “not taken lightly”, was announced on Tuesday, April 2 by brothers Michael and Peter Cook – who are taking the opportunity “to retire together” from running the prestigious company as they close the shop in London Road South, Kirkley.
They said: “Our family business has been trading in Lowestoft for 107-years and spanned four generations.
“Both of us are past retirement age and our children are pursuing their own careers and interests, so this is the way forward for us.
“This means that Cooks Furnishers will gradually wind down over the coming weeks, all outstanding orders being fulfilled and later, any remaining stock will be sold off.”
As highly-skilled cabinet makers, examples of the family’s furniture – including longcase clock cases and church furniture – still survive in the town to this day. Over the years, Cooks have provided items to many locations, including boats on the Broads, a circus, up ladders and much more. The craftsman designed and made all types of wooden furniture, long-case clocks, church furniture, polished wooden counters in banks and pubs, boats, coffins, repaired musical instruments and even hand built fitted bedroom furniture.
Michael Cook, 68, said: “Our great grandfather Frederick Cook started the business in 1912, and he was a highly-skilled cabinet maker along with his son Cecil – our grandfather, who took over in the late 1930s.”
The next generation entered the firm in 1942 with the arrival of Leonard Cook.
Michael Cook said: “Our father took over in the early 1960s and the business moved into London Road North, where there was a workshop out the back and we lived above the shop.”
Michael joined the business in 1967 and took over a shop in London Road South in 1971, before they moved to the existing premises in 1997. Peter joined the firm in 1977 and ran the London Road North business until its closure in September 2017.
With the business changing to Cooks Furnishers in the 1970s, Peter Cook, who will be 65 next week, said: “It will be a sad day. We have decided to retire now and both go together.”
With a number of closures on the high street recently announced, Michael Cook said: “Our circumstances are different to other closure announcements recently as we are doing it be choice,
“I have mixed emotions really.
“Ironically business is good now. We have just had the best quarter for a long time and the other ironic thing is that our business rates have just been reduced as well.”
Full of praise for the support they have received from “lots of loyal customers over the years,” Peter Cook added: “We are definitely going out on a high and Kirkley is on the up.”
With an ‘everything must go’ sale now on, the brothers added: “The good news is during this time we can still place special orders for customers - so if you have any requirements, please get in touch as soon as possible.
“We would like to express our thanks to all the loyal customers and friends made over the years and hope that many of you will call in to see us in Kirkley over the coming weeks.”
The company has employed lots of people over the years, and four staff will leave when Cooks closes its doors.
The Cooks Furnishers business dates back to 1912 when Fred Cook launched the company in his shed in Cambridge Road, Lowestoft.
Back then he was working as a foreman at Smith’s workshop, making all types of furniture in mahogany, oak and pine, when he decided to start his own business.
During the First World War he opened the shop – Fred Cook House Furnisher – on the corner of Clapham Road and Milton Road and began buying in furniture to sell.
As a highly-skilled cabinet maker he was joined by his son Cecil when the war ended.
The next generation entered the firm in 1942 with the arrival of Leonard Cook. The company moved into 185 London Road North - where it remained up until September 2017.
Michael Cook joined the business in 1967, and to cope with extra business took over S Chilvers furnishing shop in London Road South in 1971.
Michael’s younger twin brothers Paul - who sadly later died - and Peter joined the firm over the next few years.
The company’s final move came in 1997 when they took over the empty Easterns Furniture Shop - formerly Lillian’s - in London Road South - and where it remains now.