ONE of Newport's best-known retail businesses is celebrating 70 years since it started.

George Street Furnishers was founded as a furniture repair business in 1951 by Richard Sheppard in his Gaer Park Road garden. Today it’s one of the biggest stores in Wales, selling everything from sofas to beds, bathrooms to kitchens, and all at discount prices.

With great service and value for money key to its success, it’s still very much a family affair, now headed by Richard’s sons Martyn and Graham Sheppard, with their own sons also now on board.

Martyn Sheppard said: “It’s fantastic that from such small beginnings the business has developed into such a successful enterprise.

“Dad was being trained in upholstery by furniture store PE Gane when it closed down. So armed with just £5 capital, a hand bogey he built himself for transporting goods and his Anderson shelter for a workshop, he set himself up repairing furniture.”

South Wales Argus: Richard Sheppard

Richard Sheppard

Success followed and he began employing people, opening new workshops before turning to selling goods at premises in Commercial Road.

In the 1960s, he bought the current building in George Street, founding one of the first discount stores, selling brand name furniture.

Martyn said: “Myself and my brother joined in the 1980s, and gradually we took on the running of the business. I’m MD and Graham is director/buyer, and my sons Adam and Luke, and also his lad Joseph, are also involved, keeping the family connection going.

“As a long-standing family business, we’ve built up a rapport with our customers, some of whom we served in the first shop, and the second and third generations keep coming as well.

“We’ve even got customers who worked in the building way back when it was a clothing factory, one that a century ago made First World War uniforms.

South Wales Argus: Richard, Martyn and Graham Sheppard

Richard, Martyn and Graham Sheppard

“They’ve grown with us as a family over the years, and know and trust us, and the staff are on first name terms with many.

“I think that presence and common touch is key to a successful family business, and any requests or problems, we can react and make decisions straight away. We’re accessible.

“And on top of that, our expert sales staff, many who have been here for years, know the trade and what customers want.”

The store has held Investors in People status, and its staff are highly trained, travelling to London and factories in Italy, Sweden and elsewhere when they can to learn about products. They give top quality advice to customers.

Over the years, most of the properties in the block were bought up and integrated to provide more showroom space.

Mr Sheppard said: “It’s a substantial building, allowing us to show off a huge range of products, from sofas, to dining room furniture, flooring to carpets, bedrooms, curtains, bathrooms, water beds, kitchens, everything for the home.

“Coming to George Street Furnishers is a great experience – the building is unique, more than a century old, and several styles of property mixed in one."

Situated on the edge of the city centre, customers needn’t worry about parking, as the store has a huge free car park.

“Frankly without it, we couldn’t operate,” said Martyn.

“Dad bought land to create the space, and it’s vital for our business that people can just park up alongside.

“We’re a destination store, because we stand alone."

Like everyone else in the retail industry, the store had to close due to the pandemic and then, when it reopened, it had to create a safe shopping environment for its customers and staff.

Click through a gallery of pictures of the business through the years above.