On Monday 17th September 2018, Stephensons returned to the location of their original store in Manchester’s Barton Arcade to celebrate 150 years in business. The site is now occupied by the wonderful Lunya Catalonian Restaurant, who graciously gave up their space and their time to help with what proved to be a terrific evening of celebrations.
We were delighted to welcome hundreds of our longstanding suppliers, customers and colleagues to revel in the festivities with us. From the red carpet entrance, to the Stephensons history decorating the walls, the evening felt truly special and we were proud to share it with so many important people who’ve helped make Stephensons what it is today.
This blog post is here to collate and share some of the pictures, words and memories from a lovely evening. Please enjoy browsing. We’d love to be able to add as many images as possible, so if you do have any snaps of the evening — please send them over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, we’d like to say a massive thank you to all that attended and helped us celebrate 150 years in style!
Chairman & 4th Generation Family Member
I am Michael Stephenson, chairman of the company and in spite of many insinuations I am not actually the founder — having only been employed at the company for 55 years!
Tonight is very nostalgic for me as I began work in this very building as a warehouse sweeper and general dogsbody. My commencing wages were 2 pounds 10 shillings a week.
I am very pleased that Jim Milnes and his wife Marie have been able to join us tonight. Jim was a mentor and provider of great support to me for over 25 years. We are in fact dining in the very office that used to accommodate Jim and his accounts team.
In 1954 we negotiated the purchase of Barton Arcade in the sum of £84,000. We were gazumped thanks to a local estate agent. Today that would equate to two million, three hundred and twenty seven thousand pounds but I believe the building has just sold for £18.25 million… That’s inflation for you!
I have always (or nearly always) enjoyed my time in the business and I’ve made many good friends within the catering industry and indeed with our suppliers and competitors within the Tableware Distributors Association.
Today I’m very proud that my sons Julian and Henry have now taken over the running of the company. Henry is the fifth generation of Stephenson’s Managing Directors and his son George, aged 8, is already showing interest in certain aspects of the business. Julian’s son Alex is currently working in the warehouse (as I did myself) whilst deciding his path and James helps out in the school holidays just as Henry and Julian did before him.
I would particularly like to thank my wife Mary, who has been a great support to the business and indeed myself. It’s no easy task to listen to my many groans with great empathy over 43 years! I’d also like to thank Brad and his team who have worked tirelessly to make tonight’s event a success. Then there is obviously our terrific staff who keep the wheels turning, thank you!
Most importantly is you, our customers and suppliers — without whom our 150-year achievement would not have been possible.
Please enjoy your evening!
Managing Director & 5th Generation Family Member.
“Good evening everyone!
I’ll take you back to our February Board Meeting. Being a family business, the attendees consisted of Mum & Dad, Julian, me and our accountant Lee. We were scratching around for ideas of what to do for our 150th anniversary celebrations. It was evident that we were running short of time and a ‘151st anniversary bash’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it!
As soon as Dad mentioned the idea of going back to the original site we’d traded at for 99 years, I knew that was the way forward.
Luckily for us, Lunya Manchester is not based in our old Barton Arcade home and I would like to offer a huge thanks to Peter and Elaine, as well as Isaac and the whole team who’ve been a pleasure to work with.
Less than 3% of family businesses make it through to the fourth generation and a large number fall foul of the ‘third generation rule’ — the theory being that the third generation have not had chance to witness first hand the sweat and tears that the founder puts in to develop the business and just expect profits to continue to grow and provide a nice income for the family.
Looking back on our own experiences, the 1960’s was a tricky time for Stephensons in a market that was beginning to change beyond all recognition. Thanks to Dad’s hard work, the company shifted focus from retail to wholesale and managed to survive and thrive into the 21st century. So, from the fifth generation to the fourth — thank you Dad.
It’s really great to have Alex, James and George with us tonight. I only hope that if they choose to come into the business that they are as lucky as Julian and I have been in succeeding you (gestures to Dad)… Not gone yet of course!
We are hugely lucky to have such a fabulous bank of company and family history stretching back to the 1860’s and before. Sue Bailey, Brad and the marketing team have worked so hard to pull it all together over the last 18 months or so. They’ve really done a fantastic job and if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to wander round and take a look at the fascinating articles, stories & pictures dotted around the restaurant. It really does show how Stephensons is a little slice of Manchester’s rich history!
BUT, we also recognise that…
As soon as we fail to deliver on a Friday afternoon,
As soon as we are not competitive on blue centrefeed,
As soon as we stop showing you the latest innovation in the market…
Then our five generations of history count for very little. We will always be judged by how we perform today.
My final thanks goes to all of you in the room tonight.
To colleagues — without whom we simply wouldn’t be able to offer the service and support to our customers that we’re known for.
To suppliers — who enable us to deliver our high levels of service and who develop the innovation that has transformed the ranges we sell over the years: from the commoditised products to an offering that genuinely adds value tot this vibrant hospitality trade.
And of course to our customers — who make it such a fun and exciting sector that we’re lucky to work in.
Thank you all and thank you for finding the time to join us tonight for our 150th celebrations.
So, finally, I ask you all to please raise your glasses in a toast to…
THE FUTURE OF STEPHENSONS!