Historic beginning prompted change from traditions

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Richardson Sheffield was founded in 1839 and, in 1960, was acquired by American entrepreneur Jerry Hahn, who was looking for a blade manufacturer for his knife business.

Within six years, Richardson had become the first company in the UK to move away from the traditional way of making knives, started by the ‘Little Mesters’.

Until then, knife firms had used specialist companies to carry out many of the different operations needed to produce a knife.

But Richardson decided to bring many, if not all, of those operations under one roof. It was Jerry Hahn who spawned the idea for the mould-breaking Laser Knife.

The company rose to the challenge under the leadership of businessmen Bryan Upton and Gordon Bridge – later to become Master Cutler – and the Laser Knife was born as “the knife that never needs sharpening.”

Richardson’s fate changed after it was sold to the Australian house-products group, Macpherson, in 1986.

After Macpherson hit trouble, Richardson was sold to private investors and, by 2007, when it was employing just 60 people, the company went into administration.

Within a month, the company had been acquired by Amefa, which started life in 1931 as the Apeldoornsche Messenfabriek – or Apeldoorn Knife Factory – and had, by then, become one of Europe’s main table cutlery and kitchen knife suppliers.

Amefa already had operations in the UK which weren’t in the best of health.

“The company was profitable when it was focusing on catering and the food service sector, but, in 2003 it targeted the retail sector and started making losses,” says John Horton.

“By 2009 they had to decide whether to shut it down or bring in a new management team.

“They decided to give it one last go and I joined,” said Mr Horton, Amefa UK managing director.

“We have really grown Richardson’s sales over the last couple of years.