A family run department store is a rarity these days, let alone one that has been part of a Derbyshire town's life for almost a century, is still run by the grandson and granddaughter of its founder, and continues to thrive and adapt to the challenges of modern retail.
Today, Clarkes of Ripley is run by David Clarke and his sister Deborah Matthews. Our grandfather originally started the business in 1912 as a tailor, says David. In those days quality and service were given, and they are still key to what we offer here today.
Times have changed in some ways, and while the shop no longer carries a large credit round extending to Mansfield (which David and Debbie's father, Bert, covered on bicycle in his younger days), the variety of goods for sale has never been wider.
Over the past ten years, Clarkes has moved from being a purely fashion-based store into cookware, linens and towels, children's shoes, giftware and lingerie, as well as expanding other lines such as bags and luggage.
The shop now occupies 10,000 square feet and is spread over two stories, employing 36 members of staff. We aim to have something for the whole family, from goose-down duvets to fashion accessories, adds David.
For the weary shopper, the new in-store 'Coffee House' has proven a popular destination in itself, with many customers traveling a considerable distance for 'real' coffee and homemade cakes.
The business has strong ties with the community, raising funds for Ripley hospital (who receive all donations for the stores Christmas grotto) throughout the year as well as being involved with local schools and training schemes. Clarkes also co-ordinated a Tsunami appeal amongst Ripley shops two years ago, helping to raise over £2000.
With a loyal customer base and a position in the heart of the Amber Valley, David is still mindful of the need to plan for the future and respond to trends. We take particular pleasure in customers who can remember our grandparents at the shop, but we are always looking for new brands and opportunities.
Clarkes proves there is a place for independent family run businesses alongside superstores and malls and that personal service and innovation can go hand in hand.