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Crowdfund Race Against Time To Save Long-running Biddles’ Stationery Shop

Published on: 27 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 27 Jun, 2020

by Hugh Coakley

Two managers from Biddles are in a race against time to crowdfund re-opening of the well-known stationers in Ward Street, Guildford, after the parent company went into administration in May 2020.

The new Biddles of Guildford in refurbished premises in Ward Street, opposite the Guildford Institute, will continue its 135-year history of the firm in the town.

Neal Heaven, who has worked for over 50 years at the shop and was on the verge of retiring, said : “I would be damned if I would retire until we had set the shop up again.” Neal has taken equity from his home in Guildford to fund the business.

“It is a good business,” Neal said, “but we need to get the doors open as soon as possible and no later than July 1, if we can.”

His business partner, David Goddard, with only a mere 30 years at Biddles, said: “We are using our savings to buy the stock but we need some working capital to get the shop open.

David Goddard, left, and Neal Heaven in the Biddles shop in Ward Street, are rescuing the shop from closure.

“We can’t get business grants or even loans because, even though we have such a long history and links with our suppliers, we are effectively a new company.

“We need £1,500 to get us going and then £20,000 to be able to bring back the five staff who had been working here before the lockdown.”

The crowdfunding has gone well with over £1,500 raised in the first 30 hours the website was open.

In return for the crowdfunding support, the new company, Biddles of Guildford Ltd, will be offering a number of rewards including, limited edition Biddles pen and pencil sets and incentives in the form of “pay it forward” vouchers for funding of £20 and larger.

David said that he was “shocked and overwhelmed” by the support.

David was the only employee kept on during the lockdown; all of the others were furloughed. He kept the business going with email and the telephone, doing everything himself from sales to delivery. “I worked through some nights,” he said.

There were lots of good wishes and memories on social media. One comment said: “I have shopped at Biddles for forty years. I do hope this campaign succeeds and I have made my contribution.” Another said: “I always buy my stationery from here as they are much cheaper than local rivals.”

Neal Heaven said that he wasn’t surprised at the local support. “I had never heard of crowdfunding but I can’t go out without someone stopping me to ask when we will be opening the shop doors again.”

You can contact David Goddard on 07970 488912 or email shop@biddlesofguildford.co.uk.

If you want to be part of the crowdfunding to help save Biddles, you can access their funding website here.

Timeline of Biddles’ long history

The firm’s founder, Charles Biddle, with his wife.

1883: The Biddle family moved to Guildford from Alton in Hampshire. Leonard Biddle joined his father Charles, in their new printing business begun on February 3, 1885. On the first day of trading at their small shop in Martyr Road they sold 50 small cards.

Biddles’ first shop in Martyr Road, on the corner with Haydon Place.

1888: The business moved to premises at 22 Haydon Place. Staff increased to around 30 employees.

Circa 1918 to the 1930s: Biddles published the Surrey Weekly Press newspaper. Its rivals being the Surrey Advertiser and the Surrey Times.

Biddles first stationery shop in what is today’s upper High Street.

1922: A separate stationery shop was opened in what is today’s upper High Street (north side).

1923: New print works built in Martyr Road.

1925: A move to a larger stationery shop two doors away from the previous shop, followed by a move a few years later to the other side of the street.

1940s: During the Second World War half of the Martyr Road printworks was commandeered by the Air Ministry worked by an engineering firm making filters for aircraft.

Biddles’ print works and stationery shop in Martyr Road.

1974: Biddles ceased to set typecast in hot metal with a programme of modernisation, with typesetting by “cold composition” and offset lithography printing.

1977: Biddles acquired the assets of a print bindery business in King Lynn, Norfolk, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary.

1978: Biddles moved some of its work to Walnut Tree House, a modern factory and office building at Woodbridge Park (now the site of Wickes builders’ merchants).

1988: BIddles stationery business was purchased by Straker Office supplies and for a time the Biddles name was sidelined. The stationery shop moved to Ward Street in a building part of which had previously been (from about the early 1970s) the editorial department and then circulation department of the Surrey Advertiser.

1989: the print works and stationery shop in Martyr Road closed. After lying derelict for a number of years it was developed for housing along with the adjacent former Surrey Advertiser buildings and the development is called Printing House Square.

1990s onwards: There have been many changes within the business named Biddles, with purchases, mergers and restructuring. Book printing in Guildford closed and moved to Kings Lynn, and that separate business continues to this day. Some staff from Guildford relocated there.

1997: Oyez joined Straker and OyezStraker was established. This office supplies buying group gave Biddles the business the support of a multi-million pound purchasing group, yet still having the freedom to run the store independently in Guildford.

2014: The Biddles name is once again back in use in Guildford.

2019-20: Biddles continued to trade while major renovation work on the Ward Street building took place, with scaffolding all around the building.

May 2020: Biddles’ parent company goes into administration.

June 2020: A new business, Biddles of Guildford Ltd, is formed by two managers of the previous one, who appeal for financial help from their loyal customers to make it a going concern.

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test 11 Responses to Crowdfund Race Against Time To Save Long-running Biddles’ Stationery Shop

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 10:00 am

    It would be very sad to see this excellent shop disappear. The staff have always been helpful, the stock, extensive and the prices reasonable. I would miss them a great deal.

  2. Gordon Bridger Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 11:07 am

    I agree, I hope we can save it. Always helpful staff.

  3. Regina Redpath Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    This store is such an asset to Guildford, the staff are always friendly and very knowledgeable, nothing is too much effort for them, I love it when they offer to carry it to the car too. If they haven’t an item you want in-store they will get it for you in no time at all.

    I hope Guildford will rally round and support this independent store.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    Perhaps a store with only one or two branches should pay less rent and rates than the chain stores to encourage local shops.

    But they should be viable; stationery shops selling what are basically out of fashion products, paper folders and pencils, need to find a new product to move forward, be that basic computer services or electronics.

    A ‘graphics’ friend of mine in London moved from letterheads and comp slips to websites and has survived these past 30 years. Companies need to move forward with their products to maintain viability

  5. Gordon Coombs Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 10:26 pm

    Oh dear, I was unaware. We must save this oasis of calm where the staff ensure its a joy to shop. No pressure to buy while browsing with gentle playing of Radio 2 in the background. I agree, Biddles of Guildford has good quality items at low cost and well stocked.

    We must save the situation. I will contribute to the fund website now.

  6. Barbara Ford Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks Dragon for publicising this. Guildford needs businesses like this and people like this. Let’s hope we can save them.

  7. Andy Balchin Reply

    June 28, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    We need to keep this business going. If they haven’t got what you want they will always do their best to get it. Always a pleasant shopping experience.

    I worked for the printing dept of Biddles from the 60s till they moved out of Guildford and knew Neal well, he deserves our support to keep “Biddles of Guildford “ going.

    So many “multiples” shutting down in Guildford, let’s support this independent.

  8. Anthony Clarke Reply

    June 29, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Having lived in Guildford for 21 yrs until 1970, I was very sorry to hear of the problems Biddles were having. However, it is great news that they are going to try and keep the business going. I frequented the old shop by the Grammar School as a child.

  9. Adele Potter Reply

    July 3, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    This was my favourite go-to place for office/stationery supplies since I moved to Guildford from London in 1999. Not only was it well stocked and reasonable with a wide choice at reasonable prices, it is a very convenient location to just park up and go in quickly.

    Great, particularly when I had school children and they could just pop in with me without the hassle of having to park in a car park and go to WH Smith or Rymans.

    The staff were always very helpful and knew their stock and could procure whatever you needed. During my teacher training, they gave me very good discounts that help me resource my class with handheld whiteboards and other items to help promote class participation and active interest and learning in the course content.

    Thank you and good luck.

  10. Justin White Reply

    July 6, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    All the staff have always been so helpful and go above and beyond in customer service.

    Good luck to them for the future.

  11. Diann Arnfield Reply

    July 8, 2020 at 10:46 am

    David [Goddard] was so helpful to me during lockdown. He supplied me with ink cartridges, paper, scrapbook and even old fashioned carbon paper. Plus, he went that extra mile to deliver the items to me on his way home.

    We always, go to Biddles for all our stationery needs. I’ve lived in the Guildford area all my life so will definitely be supporting them to continue another 135 years.

    Thanks so much to them.

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