MADE IN SHEFFIELD: Scissor firm battles back after boss dies
Historic Sheffield scissor company Ernest Wright and Son is looking to a brighter future following the sudden death of the boss and four years of turbulence, illness and tragedy.
Pam Addy is the new managing director of the handmade scissor firm after Nick Wright died suddenly in February.
Mr Wright, aged 48, left no will and deleted personal and company information before his death at home in Kelham Island.
It followed a troubled period when a fundraising campaign went viral on the internet and sparked an avalanche of orders for 2,000 Kutrite scissors. In total, it raised £240,000, smashing the £60,000 target.
But due to design problems, the illness of two key people and then Nick’s death, the first ones are only being delivered this week, 20 months after the Kickstarter campaign ended.
Some believed it was the end for the seven-strong family firm on Broad Lane in the city centre.
But after 115 years it wasn’t the first crisis it had faced - and overcome.
Pam, the former customer services manager, said: “We are determined to make the company a success because we are passionate about it. After so long we couldn’t let it die.
“There was a lot of shock following Nick’s death, but we are taking the business forward and we will honour the Kickstarter for him.
“I shared an office with Nick but I can’t work in there now, When the door opens I keep thinking it’s him. He had a lot of personal issues and, although running a business wasn’t easy, I think that was only a small part of it.”
The Kickstarter Kutrites were a tweak to a kitchen classic popular in the 1960s that Nick brought back and which caught the public’s imagination.
But due to design and machining problems it was a year before the first forged blanks were ready to work on.
Then Cliff Denton, aged 74, went off for nine months with cancer and grinder Eric Stones, 75, was off for six months following a bleed on the brain, severely slowing production.
Frustrations among customers started to show in online posts before Nick’s death.
But since then not one negative comment had been posted, Pam added.
“The comments have been phenomenal, people are saying, ‘take all the time you need’.”
Now, the backlog should be cleared within eight months, she added.
But it isn’t the firm’s worst time.
That came in 2014 when business was so bad staff were on a two-day week. Then a short film about Cliff called ‘The Putter’ (Putter Togetherer) by Sheffield photographer Shaun Bloodworth went viral - and Ernest Wright and Sons received two years’ orders in one day.
Retail manager Simon Wigglesworth-Baker said: “Art saved the company. Ever since then Nick supported the arts.”
Mr Bloodworth tragically died while waiting for a liver transplant in September 2016.
Today, the firm makes 30 models, from the 13-inch ‘side bent’ tailoring scissors to the delicate stork embroidery pair, and business is 20 per cent up on last year.
Pam plans to boost the shop and increase the number of factory tours.
“The public has a new-found love for handcrafted scissors. I’m really excited to be moving forward with this company.”
DEDICATED CRAFTSMENT - AND COMEDY DUO - HONOURED FOR SERVICES TO SCISSOR INDUSTRY
Veteran scissor workers Cliff Denton, 74, and Eric Stones, 75, were honoured for their long service to the industry by the Lord Mayor at Sheffield Town Hall.
The pair have been working since they were 15 and 14 respectively and have contributed immeasurably to Ernest Wright’s success.
They also stayed on long past retirement to help train younger staff, while both battled back from serious illnesses.
Cliff said: “We stopped on to learn the lads.”
But it is their their banter that has kept everyone going through tough times, says managing director Pam Addy.
“They are a delight to work with.”