Julian Foye is one of Cornwall’s best-known retailers, yet its rich historical journey is little-known to the public.
From its beginnings as a humble Fowey shop in 1862, the family business has expanded across four successful showrooms and prides itself on high levels of customer and staff satisfaction.
The company’s outlets in Truro, St Austell, Wadebridge, and Hayle, attract business from both across Cornwall and further afield.
But where do the roots of all this success stem from?
The early years of Julian Foye
The firm we today know as Julian Foye was founded by Edmund Julian, a trained carpenter born in Withiel, near Bodmin.
Once qualified, Edmund moved to Liskeard to set up his own business, making and repairing furniture. He travelled with his family and possessions to Fowey in 1862 – a move that would have involved a tiring day’s journey by cart back then. The firm continued to trade in Fowey right up until 2010.
Edmund died in 1900, and chose to pass the control of the business to his second son, Jesse, who was still a minor at the time. Jesse would grow to become a successful businessman and became mayor of Fowey.
Honoring the memory of his father, Jesse purchased for the town the vantage point which overlooks Readymoney Beach. A presentation plaque, dated 1929, can be found at the beach today.
The plaque at Readymoney Beach, dated 1929
Jesse would claim another milestone in 1920 when he bought a motor van, the first of its kind in Fowey. The addition of the Motel T Ford, which boasted solid rubber tyres, made it possible to collect furniture from London. Upon Jesse’s insistence, the motor lorry’s interior would always be full before its three-day return journey – and that included the roof and tailgate.
A change of hands and a new name
The business reached a significant milestone of its own in 1945 when Jesse made the firm into a limited company. He also arranged for control to be passed to his managers following his death. Gordon Dorrington had worked for the firm since 1924 and would assume the leading role.
The Julian & Son lorry photographed at Westminster, London
Gordon invited his son-in-law Mike Ellis to the firm in 1961, who would lead the development of Julian Foye from the 1970s through to his retirement in 2004.
During Mike’s leadership the decision was made in 1972 to trade as Julian Foye, ‘Foye’ being an ancient spelling of Fowey. Prior to this, the firm had conducted business as Julian and Son Ltd.
Mike also oversaw the launch of the Wadebridge and Truro showrooms, which respectively opened in 1982 and 1987.
Julian Foye today
Julian Foye has remained a family business throughout its history. Mike’s daughter Annette became managing director of the company in 2004 and purchased the new site at Hayle in 2010. She is also responsible for selecting the majority of the furniture on show. Annette’s son Robert, the fourth generation of the family, joined the firm in 2017.
Julian Foye’s latest outlet in Hayle. Company director Annette Thomas purchased the site in 2010
Julie, Mike’s younger daughter, is the company secretary. Robert Winch and Jon Wilson, the managers of the Truro and St Austell branches, are also directors.
Staff turnover is fairly low at the furnishers, with many of its employees boasting 25 years at the company. Julian Foye proudly showcases a team philosophy whereby sales advisors are not paid commision. They are instead expected to discover and fulfil their customers’ requirements, and to never be afraid to suggest a visit to another branch if that is where the right merchandise can be found.
Annette said: “We have 40 people who work for us – 36 who work full time in permanent jobs and four who work part time again in permanent jobs – we do not believe in zero hour contracts!
“Many of our members of staff have been with us for decades. We do a lot of ongoing training both here in the UK with factory and show visits and abroad for example in Europe and Scandinavia – and so we are fully committed to their CPD.”
The firm continues to expand, Annette adds: “We are also actively looking for a new site in Cornwall which must be at least 8,000 sq ft and have parking for our delivery vans and customers”.
The business has more recently rebranded its St Blazey outlet as its new clearance shop. The revamped site on Station Road, formerly known as the Furniture Cellar, has been trading in its present format for over 15 years.
It’s the place to go for a bargain, with brand new, ex-display, prototypes, and quality seconds currently available at prices as low as £500 – and lower.
Julian Foye celebrated its amazing 150 years of trading in 2012. To find out more about the company’s range of products and services, visit the website here.
Source: Cornwall Live