Hartlepool businessman celebrates 40 years with blind shop after surviving recessions and pandemic

A businessman is celebrating 40 years of serving the town after surviving recessions and the pandemic.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 4:45 am

This weekend marks four decades that Stephen Close, of Just Blinds, has been supplying tailor made to homes and businesses in Hartlepool.

Since 1981 the business has sold and fitted over 60,000 blinds, most of which have been made in their own workshop at its York Road premises.

Proprietor Stephen said success was far from guaranteed when he joined the business, which was then part of the Apollo Blinds franchise.

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Stephen Close outside of Just Blinds in York Road. Picture by FRANK REID

But over the years it built up a strong reputation and clientele based on positive word of mouth.

Stephen, 61, said: “I had been unemployed for a while and tried for all sorts of work.

"My wife had a job as a bookkeeper part time for a franchise blind shop and I applied to the head office.”

He was successful, initially working in their Billingham branch.

Stephen Close making a blind in the workshop at Just Blinds, York Road, Hartlepool as he celebrates 40 years in the business. Picture by FRANK REID

But after three months the chance came up to take over the Hartlepool store, then in Middleton Grange shopping centre.

Stephen, who had previously worked in a chemical plant until it closed, added: “It was high risk.

"The country was just coming out of recession and I put up my house to borrow the money.”

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In 1983 the business started making its own range 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 business moved to its current location and 10 years ago Stephen became independent.

Over time, greater customer spending power led to more choice and more outlets instead of just big department stores.

Stephen added: “It took us a few years to get the business going but once we got established it got a little bit easier.

“I have been through three recessions now and have come out the other side.

"We have always just relied on word of mouth and service is key to that.

"We look after a lot of the same people and are going through the third generation of families now.”

The shop also raises money for dementia homes through the sale of local history DVDs and takes donations towards a new Boer War statue in the town.

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