IT’S a family-run business that has survived two world wars, the great depression and numerous other economic crises.
But now quality furniture store Birks, of West Street in Fareham, is celebrating 100 years since it was founded.
The store was started by Ernest Birks in 1912 – the same year the Titanic made her ill-fated voyage – and has been in the same location ever since.
Ernest was a cabinet maker for Jeffrey’s Furniture who decided to branch out on his own.
In 1935, William Birks, who was a woodwork teacher at Price’s Grammar School in Fareham, took over from his father with the help of a £270 loan from the school’s then headteacher.
William expanded the store as he took on work for the war effort, making engines for torpedo motorboats in a workshop out the back.
His son Douglas trained as an accountant before coming back to the business and taking over from his father in 1968.
Douglas, 79, said: ‘We lived over the shop, so I grew up here.
‘There was a bomb in Colenso Road during the Second World War – Hitler blew our windows in and he’s never paid us for them.
‘We’ve survived through everything here.’
The business did branch out to Stoke Road and North Cross Street in Gosport during the boom times, but has since closed them.
And Douglas fondly remembers trips to hotels along the south coast during the 70s and 80s where they could sell up to £40,000 of stock in just two days.
Daughter Beverley Birks, 37, has been running the shop-within-a-shop, The Bridal Suite, there since 2003, after getting a degree in fashion design. She said: ‘I was getting married and was looking for a shop like this, but there wasn’t really anything, so I thought I would start my own.
‘It’s worked really well for me and I’m well-known in this location, so I hope I can stay here as long as possible.’
When she was growing up, Beverley recalled playing hide-and-seek amongst the furniture, as well as working in the shop on Saturdays when she was at school.
Beverley added: ‘It’s mind-boggling to think our past relatives lived and worked here.
‘Dad was determined to make it to 100 years, so I’m glad for him that he’s made it.’