Woodbridge: Founder of department store Barretts dies aged 89

JACK Barrett, the founder of home furnishings department store Barretts of Woodbridge, has died following a short illness at the age of 89.

Mr Barrett founded Barretts with his wife Ann in 1969 and the business has remained in the family ever since.

At the age of 15, and following afamily tradition, Mr Barrett joined his father and his grandfather before him at the Norwich furniture store Trevor Page as a carpenter.

His training was interrupted by the Second World War, although his skills were put to good use making improvements to the officer’s mess at his first posting in the Shetland Isles.

Later in the war, he became an army scout and on many occasions found himself behind enemy lines in Germany on his motorbike. He was one of the first Allied servicemen to enter Berlin, before being ordered to withdraw to allow the Russians to take the German capital.

In 1963 he moved to Scotland, with his wife, to become general manager of Loves of Perth, returning to Norwich as manager of Trevor Page in 1966.

Then in 1969, with the support of local businessman Charles Gill, the couple opened Barretts of Woodbridge in the old Walkers grocery store at the heart of the Town’s Thoroughfare. It was very much a family affair with daughters Jane and Jill living with their parents in the apartment above the shop.

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The store suffered a major set-back early on when, in October 1970, a fire completely destroyed the showroom, and threatened the family living above. Fortunately, the roar of the fire woke Mrs Barrett up and they were able to make good their escape.

Another fortunate escape was the beautiful shop frontage which suffered only superficial damage. Through help from friends and fellow local traders, and a lot of personal hard work, Barretts bounced back and was trading again within three days.

The store mainly sold furniture, beds and carpets in its earlier days but linens, fabric, curtains, blinds and gifts were added over the years as the shop expanded.

Mr and Mrs Barrett retired in 1992 after 23 successful years trading, and Ann’s brother Ray Morley, with his wife Paddy, took on the business. It is now owned by the Barretts’ daughter Jill, and her daughters Vicky and Annie also help out on Saturday’s.

A friend of the family said: “Jack personified the traditional values of courtesy, respect and trust in serving the people of Woodbridge and east Suffolk.

“These values now form part of the fabric of Barretts, and the reputation for friendly, expert customer service he instilled remains to this day. He was a true gentleman, and is greatly missed by family and friends alike.”

A service will be held at 3:45pm on Wednesday, March 21 at Seven Hills Crematorium, Nacton, followed by a celebration of Jack’s life at the Barretts store from 5pm. All are welcome. As a mark of respect, Barretts will be closed from 1pm on that day.