It was during the second world war that the two founders, RAF men, Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse, decided to embark on their own personal fight to succeed in business when they returned to Civvie Street, opening the first Barker & Stonehouse store in Bishopton Lane, Stockton, in early 1946.
They were joined by Charles’ brother, Frank Barker, in late 1946 when the first Middlesbrough store opened in Newport Road.
The founders would be surprised to learn that the company now employs over 300 staff and owns nine huge stores across the UK.
Charles Barker’s son, and current chairman, Richard Barker, joined the company.
Richard Barker went on to effect a management buy-out, acquiring Frank Barker’s and Alex Stonehouse’s shares making him majority shareholder and Managing Director of the business.
“In my father’s founding days of business the whole theme was practicality. Utility furniture was all that was available as the country was still re-building itself post-war. There was no real choice of style and there was no question of choosing furniture simply for its looks.
Furniture then was of one kind only: functional. However, people were ambitious and hard-working and just as aspirational as they are today, there was a very definite sense of people striving to build a better future for their families after the war.” – Richard Barker
The first Barker & Stonehouse store to be opened outside of Teesside was in Bishop Auckland.
The company went even further north and opened its first store in Newcastle upon Tyne.
"Newcastle was an exciting challenge. It was always the region’s biggest retail centre and I was an ambitious young man! It was also a risk as Barker & Stonehouse was unknown there but there seemed to be a gap in the market for contemporary furniture and I thought we could fill it, which we did." – Richard Barker
Richard’s son, James, the current Managing Director, brought his own ideas to the business when he joined the company.
James’ advertising and marketing skills which he gained working with advertising giants; Saatchi & Saatchi brought a new dimension in which the company promoted itself. James recognised the power of advertising, and the slogan “is your house a Barker & Stonehouse” was born.
Barker & Stonehouse opens its most impressive store to date at Teesside Retail Park.
“The one thing I hope that I’ve inherited is the commercial agility and talent for spotting a winning product that my father has because the face of the furniture retail sector is constantly changing and we’ve always got to try and keep apace with it. We are in another period similar to the one my father experienced in the 70s where the whole retail landscape is changing.”