A FAMILY BUSINESS - SUTERS LIMITED - 1960s
REBUILDING AT SLOUGH - Additional information see also 1960s history of Suters page
This page has the original text from the 1960s page, however additional material courtesy of Tom Suter's archives (2020) has been added.
In 1955 a series of internal photos of the Slough store were commissioned from G.H.Greville of 4 High Street, Slough. These were taken to support the planning application. Images source - Tom Suter See also An Approach to Renewal in Slough
Soft furnishing Department
Six page feature on plans to re-build the Slough Suters store outlined in an article in the Slough Chamber of Commerce Journal June 1959 The Store that grew Up with Slough Suters Ltd
Before any building work took place at Slough, the old orchard wall behind the High Street shops, together with the property owned by the company bordering onto Wellington Street had to be removed. The wall built out of stocks bricks was taken down and every night for many months, John Suter returned to his home "Austenwood" opposite Austenwood Common on the Chalfont-St-Peter / Gerrards Cross border with a boot load of bricks. These were then used to build new gate posts (replacing the old wooden ones) and a wall at the front of the house, retaining walls in the front drive and even some left over for a brick barbecue.
Left: David Hartley - architect from Hartley and Travis on left of photo points out something to Clarence Suter and Arthur Suter (in hat) around 1959 with the construction of the basement. Architects David Hartley and Alan Travis were responsible for the design of the new store.
Slough Observer 10 April 1959 - Bottom photo in the report - Small begininings in 1920. Mr Clarence Suter outside first drapers shop with two staff. Source Tom suter archives
SLough Windsor & Eton Express 10th April 1959 - Source Tom Suter archives
The rebuilding of the Suters store at Slough began in 1959, and, after a visit with her mother on the 1st March, Wendy-Ann Ensor told Richard Ensor in a letter that they received "a conducted tour of the new buildings and its really magnificent". The rebuilding started at the rear behind the existing building and progressed in stages. On the 16th September 1960 the company and its suppliers paid for a special 40th Anniversary Supplement in one of the Slough local papers and included a description of the progress to that date:
The frontage of the new store will provide 800 ft of window display space. The back will open on to a roomy car park with access to Wellington Street.
Down one side will run a covered arcade joining the High Street and the car park. It will provide more window displays and will be brilliantly lit at night.
The building will have four floors, one of them below ground and probably containing domestic merchandise. Much of the gravel subsoil has already been scooped out and behind the present frontage a sturdy tracery of girders is rising beside the tunnel which links the old store with the first phase of the new.
On entering from the High Street customers will find themselves in a vast open-plan department with lifts on the extreme left and in the centre a double escalator - the first in any Slough store - leading to the sections above. These will probably contain fashions, clothing, household linens and carpets.
On the top floor at the back looking over the car park to the trees fringing the far side of Wellington Street there will be a restful modern restaurant with seating for 100 people - a feature badly needed in Slough.
All this extra room will make possible a great extension in the services which the store provides. The staff will be roughly doubled and the management hope to engage many school leavers for this purpose, thus strengthening the ties which for the past 40 years have bound Suters to the growing community in Slough and the districts round about.
……A sevenfold multiplication of the floor area will make shopping pleasanter, quicker and more varied. There will be more scope for self-selection by customers with the guidance and assistance of the staff. - from the 40th Anniversary Supplement
An artists impression of the new frontage was set beside a photo of the existing shop fronts (above left) and there were features about some of the departments and plenty of advertisements.
This new Suters of Slough store would have a large car park made up from the land at the rear that was an orchard and garden with an entrance in Wellington Street. There would be a garage for four vans and a two storey building accommodating a spacious soft furnishing workshop.
FINANCE FOR THE NEW STORE
The new development at Slough was financed by a sale to the Coal Board Pension Fund of a long leasehold interest in the land and a lease-back to the company at a commercial rent. A note of the main terms survives on a sheet of Suters removal department letter head which seems to have been written by an adviser.
2. Purchase will be subject to a granting back to us of an under-lease for the full term with rent review clauses at the 35th and 70th years at a rent of £23,870. This figure is based upon a yield of 6¾% after deducting for the purchase costs & amortisation and is the terms that were originally granted to them.
This figure would be exclusive of your own legal fees and our agency commission for which we should be responsible.
3. Arranged for the C.B. to provide the Finance: Phase 1 £117,000 Phase 2 £ 90,000 Phase 3 £ 70,000 £286,000 + £40,000 = £325,000 Put that in monetary terms in 2018 it would be approximately £2.725 million.
2½ years to build - monies advanced by C.B. as "building finance" would be charged 8% - which means paying 10% for finance as the work proceeds.
Early decision sought.
Now being submitted to the Committee on the understanding that we agree to the figures & they have been advised that we are recommend to proceed on this basis & we must await final decision.
Subject to contract.
The note confirms that construction was to be in three phases and the article in the 40th Anniversary Supplement implies that Phase 1 was the rear section, which was already in use at the time of the article and, indeed when Wendy-Ann and her mother visited in March 1960. Phase 2 was the centre section including the basement area and the entrance and frontage would be in Phase 3. The new store was completed by 1962.
By the Autumn, the rebuilding of the Slough store was almost complete and the formal opening ceremony was scheduled for the late summer of 1962. The new store included a boardroom and offices which would take up many of the departments related to management previously at Uxbridge.
THE NEW SUTERS STORE - 1962
In January 1959 the Suters company started to rebuild the Slough store and during the next three and a half years the work to the store progressed while it remained open for business. Progressively during 1960 and 1961 parts of the new building were brought into use and, in March 1961, Richard Ensor was able to take a party of his Cambridge friends to look round and be impressed. By the end of the summer of 1962 work was complete and the official opening was scheduled for October. In the meantime store guides were prepared and on Friday the 28th September The Windsor Slough and Eton Express published a series of articles describing the new 'Slough Dream Store' under the headline "From The Old ….. To the Super Modern".
The Slough Express started with some Suters history:It was in 1920 that the Suters family acquired their High Street store and at that time it belonged to Andrews and Son, drapers and silk mercers. In 1927 Blanchetts Music Shop was bought and incorporated, and in 1939, Hopkins and Sons' business, adjoining the building was the men's and footwear departments. The directors were still thinking of expansion when World War II came, and put an end to their ideas for a while. Then, in 1946, they settled down again, and in 1949 with the population of Slough growing sp rapidly, the need for a bigger and better Suters became acute.
It took a clear ten years of negotiation and planning before work could begin on this enormous venture, but it was in 1959 that the workmen moved in. They have been working since then, non-stop, but few customers have been hampered by their presence …. in fact, the service at Suters during these three years has been as efficient as ever.
This then, is the birth of a building. Now it will grow and grow, but the startling thing is that it has already matured. It has been a keynote of the Slough High Street for 42 years now, and much has happened since the Suter and Son shop was opened in 1920 - particularly on the 70,000 square feet between High Street and Wellington Street - and much will happen in the next 42 years, no doubt.
Suters splendid store - a dream for so many years - is reality at last. For several weeks customers have felt the atmosphere of a West End departmental store, but workmen on one floor or another have been a constant reminder that a metamorphosis was taking place. But now the change is complete. The store, once family drapers, is a departmental store in its own right. When you walk into the new Suters, you will walk on marble; you will ride on the most modern escalators; you will eat in a new atmosphere. You will find new and interesting merchandise spread over four floors.
This has cost the Suter family £250,000. And, in turn, it was made possible because the directors have been able to plough back into the business profits which otherwise would have been disbursed among shareholders for the firm is a private limited company.
The frontage provides 800 sq ft of window display space, the back opens out on to a roomy car park, with access to Wellington Street. Inside is a vast open plan department with lifts on the extreme left to all floors, and in the centre a double escalator, the first in any Slough store.
Several years of planning have gone into this building, and the rebuilding was implemented over three phases by the architects, Mr W David Hartley and Mr Alan Travis in order to continue business throughout the operation.
The gigantic escalators - four sections each 52 ft long - moved into the store some months ago, but were not in use until this week. They were the main "headache" and they had to come by night.
Traffic was held up while huge trailers carried each section to the store on four consecutive visits - all at midnight. At first the driver had trouble shunting into the rear of the building, he had a margin of five inches between his vehicle and the stone [illegible].at the back door. At the first trip it took him half an hour to gain successful entry. Each visit was easier, and at the last visit he was through the doors in five minutes flat.
Incidentally, furniture whether "custom built" or "off the peg" is a Suters speciality. The store can furnish a dining room from the table mats to the refrigerated cocktail cabinet.
Sanderson fabrics satisfy …….they have satisfied Suters' buyers for many a year, and the fabrics are satisfying to the band of machinists who are employed by the firm. They have a workshop at the back of the store, overlooking the car park, and a dozen girls make curtains, loose covers, fitted bedspreads to a customer's specification. The girls have been responsible for the furnishings in many a director's office on the trading estate, and not long ago they completed the entire furnishing for the Bell's Abestos [sic?] Group in their delightful offices at Stoke Green.
If we turn and step on the escalator going down through the building we will come to the first floor and a world of fashion at our feet. The immediate left is reserved for the younger smarter women ….its not just teens and matrons at Suters.
They haven't forgotten their staunch customers, the ladies that have shopped at Suters for years, confident that they will find elegance with ease, and comfort too. The well-laid out fashion floor caters for this group of ladies at one corner, another is reserved for the Junior Miss (teenager can be a frightening term) and the "young marrieds" ….or the career girl of the same age group finds an array of glossy magazine ideas from which to choose.
Having absorbed the fashion departments on the first floor the shopper is taken to the ground floor and the "Smoker's Shop" just inside the front entrance.
The Smoker's Shop, carrying stocks of all the well-known cigarettes, pipes, tobaccos and a wide selection of cigarette lighters, is just the place for those last minute birthday and Christmas presents. As we pass the lift doors, one of the lifts is descending, and when it reaches ground level we step in and are taken to the lower ground floor. As the doors slide open we see another famous name on display - Daks. Here in their men's clothing department Suters are carrying the entire range of Daks clothing. Well-cut jackets from ten guineas, with the latest trousers from £6.10s. Here the foibles of masculine taste are well catered for.
Beyond the stairs on the lower ground floor is the shoe department, and here again, Suters cater for all tastes from the contemporary to the traditional and the quality is backed by the famous brand names once more. Norvic and John White being but two od the names which stand out. - edited version from The Windsor Slough and Eton Express, 28th September 1962
The lower ground floor, also, contained departments for travel goods and china and glass both of which were featured in the "Store-gazing" guide.
The Windsor Slough and Eton Express carried a full page of reports and photos including copies of the plans of all four floors and seven Suters advertisements on the 28th September 1962.
The headline "Start your Store Gazing in Suters" and the photo of the ladies fashion department on the first floor is shown here together with the photo of the boys outfitting department on the lower ground floor.
Outside the main entrance to Slough store
Source of Images Tom Suter 2020
©Richard Ensor - January 2005 & ©Philip Suter 2020
Aerial views of Slough Store - Image source Bing (Click on the two images below to enlarge)
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives