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Upholsterer Terry celebrates 50 years Southampton trading
HIS workshop is like an Aladdin’s cave, with endless rolls of material in every shade or pattern you could want.
Terry Sutton’s upholstering business started from virtually nothing and has seen him tackle everything from caravans to trousers.
Now the owner of Sutton Upholstery, in Southampton is celebrating 50 years in business and 62 years in the trade.
As other independent businesses have disappeared, Mr Sutton has continued, upholstering everything from three-piece suites to Victorian dining room chairs to caravan interiors.
His customers nowadays include the grandchildren of his original clientele.
But the 77-year-old thinks his business, in Bevois Valley Road, Bevois Valley, will likely end when he retires as his daughters have chosen other professions.
But the grandfather-of-seven does not think that will be any time soon.
Mr Sutton, who has lived in Shirley all his life, left school at 15 to become a builder.
But when he was told that he was too slight he settled on upholstery and took an apprenticeship in Lodge Road, learning on the job over a period of around five years, interrupted by two years’ national service with the Royal Hampshires in the 1950s.
He went on to work at a number of Southampton businesses, but in 1963 he started his own, renting the current premises. Four years later when the owner wanted to sell it, Terry bought it for £1,500.
Mr Sutton admitted that starting up on his own had at first been difficult as he was relying on people to pay him to pay the rent, but he had always kept going.
He said the advantage of having a small business was that he could take on smaller jobs that large companies would not take on.
During his career, Mr Sutton, who lost his wife Joan 27 years ago, has taken on some unusual jobs.
These included work on the QE2 as an upholsterer for two years on and off, spending up to three months on board travelling to far flung locations such as the Caribbean, Tonga, Fiji, Auckland and New York.
He was also a contractor for Harrods in London, who would bring items down to him. But Mr Sutton does not limit himself to chairs and if the occasion calls for it has shortened trousers and widened shoes.
Alongside the job, the old shop itself keeps Mr Sutton on his toes – apparently it has its own ghost.
Mr Sutton has seen a chair rock back on its own before and other people have seen an unusual mist.
“I love what I do,” he said.
“Every chair is different “You have got to know what you’re doing – you have got to be able to take somebody’s precious furniture out from their house and take it back in good condition, especially antiques.”
He believes he is the oldest sole trader on the road.
“I’m flying the flag I suppose,” he said.
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