David Leech, of Pelham Puppets fame, continues our Hidden Gems of Stone series as he visits Mountford’s on Lichfield Street.
Part 5: Mountford’s
“I must say I’m quite chuffed with myself. I’ve just fixed a lad’s motorbike and got him back on the road – the fact he was three years old and it was a toy should not detract from my achievement though!”
Anyone who has lived in Stone for any length of time will know that Andrew and Dave Kidd at Mountford’s are well known for their high level of customer service and friendly, helpful advice but I doubt many would expect this to stretch to mending toy motorbikes, even though it probably doesn’t really come as any surprise to anyone that knows them of course.
Speaking with Andrew, it is clear that offering a consistent and high level of customer service is their priority. During the interview and my time there, the place was a constant hive of activity, there was lots going on with a steady stream of customers although he did go on to explain, “At first I never wanted to work here,” – but that was 22 years ago! “I love it now,” he enthused, “There’s always something different each and every day.”
He had completed a Hotel and Catering Course at Stafford college in the late 1980s and spent some time in the hotel and catering trade in Torquay but returned to Stone in 1992 and has stayed with the shop ever since.
As Andy excused himself to help another customer, Dave came through adding, “There’s always lots of good humour and banter here, I guess it’s because of the type of business we’re in, it’s really interesting and it’s good being able to help people to find what they want.” And it’s very true, if they haven’t got what you want in stock at the time, they will do their best to get it for you within a couple of days and more often than not the next day.
As Dave went on to say, “That’s why we’re still here, you need to have the right attributes for this type of work and lots of enthusiasm, without it you’re not much use!”
They are always very competitively priced in direct comparison with the ‘large sheds’ such as B&Q and Wickes and other plumber and builders merchants. As Andy went on to say, “The amount of times customers say to us “I didn’t think you would stock that” – they think because we are a small shop we don’t hold a great deal of stock but we have two floors and a warehouse full of stock, or they might say, “I wish I had known your prices, I got those from B&Q and they were more expensive!””
Clearly their success lies in the fact that it is a long established family business and they have a large base of trade customers as well as a large and loyal base of DIY-ers who use their combined 70 years of experience to solve and advise on all the various jobs and problems that people present them with.
Now in their 80th year of trading, they are one of the oldest businesses in Stone, certainly the longest retailer in Stone to still be trading today.
The shop was in fact established in 1934, by Andy’s grandfather Jack, and his brother in law, Dicky Mountford. Both worked in a similar retail establishment known as Evans’s that was situated where Heron’s and Clinton Cards are now but they decided to go it alone even though 1934 was arguably one of the worst years of the Great Depression as the world’s economy hit rock bottom!
Jack did have to leave the business for a short while though and managed Dickenson’s in Stafford but came back once Dicky had established the business and then they went on to survive a World War and several economic recessions handing the business down from father to son for three generations.
Of course with such a business like this which offers such a wide range of goods there is a lot involved with the admin side of things which is the domain of Sue Topley who came in to help out on a temporary basis but is still looking after things 29 years later!
She recently came across some old books with details of monthly customer accounts. It is interesting to see that in August 1957 a local plumber’s monthly account amounted to £3/12/9d. Today that would be £3.64! Another local monthly account, a local garage/car dealer from 1962 was a little more, £31/19/- or £31.95. Sue suggested it might be an idea to have an anniversary day celebration where people could purchase items at 1962 prices – as long as they paid in pounds, shillings and pence!
Even though they are justly proud of their long history they do not live in the past by any means. They have a very informative website featuring their wide range of goods and services, such as the key cutting service and a very active and up to date Face Book page too. In addition, if you are thinking about a present for dad or granddad then Mountford’s also have gift vouchers that can be purchased and redeemed in the shop.
So whether you are a builder, plumber, joiner, plasterer, electrician or an engineer and you need ‘four candles’ or ‘fork handles,’ (sorry, it just had to be said!) – in fact, anything for your work or home, – just in case you didn’t know – you now know who can supply you without you ever having to leave town!
9 Lichfield Street,
Phone: 01785 813261
9am – 5.30 Monday to Friday
9am – 5pm Saturday
Note: B&W Photo was taken in 1957 with Sproston’s sweet shop next door (left) and ‘chippy’ on the right (off photo)