IT was, it’s fair to say, an inauspicious beginning: a young Heeley silversmith, who wanted to earn some extra cash after work, took to selling sheets and blankets from a cart he pushed around the little Sheffield suburb.
Later, feeling flushed with some success, he opened a small shop - in the front room of his house in Myrtle Road.
Today that business of humble beginnings is not only perhaps the most instantly recognisable in Heeley, it is also one of the biggest of its kind in the UK.
Ponsford furniture store now stretches 15 shops along London Road, employs 85 people, and has some 10,000 items - from a £15,000 bed to a 75p decorative reed - on sale. There’s also a cafe where the sandwiches knock the Ikea hotdogs into a cocked hat.
But, perhaps most impressively of all, this month Ponsford celebrates 120 years since that silversmith, Harry Ponsford, set up that first store.
“Why have we been successful?” muses Adrian Ponsford, grandson of Harry and current MD. “Staff. They are - and always have been - the absolute best. We surround ourselves with great people. They are the reason we are rated so highly.”
He’s being slightly modest, of course.
The store has survived and thrived for 12 decades because this is a family - Harry, followed by son Colin, followed by Adrian, who, in turn, will be followed by his lad Angus, a current director - with a passion for their product and an ability to expand at just the right time.
Harry moved from his front room to a shop in Valley Road in the mid 1890s. Colin upscaled, again, to a unit on Chesterfield Road, in 1933. And Adrian has been growing that store into adjacent shops ever since. That culminated (for now) with the building of a brand new three storey studio on the site of the old Heeley Palace cinema in 2003.
“We were going to build a couple of towers on top like the palace had,” says Adrian, 73. “But it wouldn’t have been practical.”
The furniture within - a mixture of classic and new, and catering for every room in the house - doesn’t necessarily come cheap, of course.
“But it’s nice furniture of excellent quality,” says Angus, 42. “This is a lovely business to be in, actually. What you’re doing is helping people to make their home nice, and that’s very satisfying.”
He has a five-year-old son incidently. The future (and fifth generation), it seems, looks bright.