Fordham Kitchens founder Mark looks back over his career ahead of retirement
Businessman Mark Fordham is preparing to close his kitchens firm after a career spanning five decades.
Mark, 62, from Ryhall, is best-known for running Fordham Kitchens Ltd, in New Road.
But the entrepreneur’s first business was a newsagent, which he started from his home in 1976 at the tender age of 22.
Every morning he would deliver papers to customers in the Bythams, Witham-on-the-Hill, Edenham, Ryhall and beyond.
Mark soon realised that the free time he had in the afternoon after finishing his rounds could be put to good use – so he decided to open a furniture shop.
Mark said: “I’d always wanted to run my own business because I didn’t like being told what to do.
“I set up the newsagent first, and was up early sorting out the papers but after that my afternoons were free so I decided to do something else too.
“I started Fine Pine, selling pine furniture, in Ryhall in the spring of 1979.
“I was very busy, and working long hours, but was enjoying it.”
In 1983, Mark and wife Rosemary decided to move the business to St John’s Street, Stamford, in 1983 and rented out the showroom in New Road, Ryhall.
They traded at the new premises successfully for 10 years before moving back to Ryhall.
Mark said: “While running Fine Pine we started doing a few kitchen refurbishments – new doors and worktops and that sort of thing.
“By 1996 I’d had enough of pine so we ditched that and focused on kitchen installations.”
Sadly, just a couple of years later Rosemary became ill. She underwent surgery for cancer and was later diagnosed with multiple system atrophy (MSA) – a disease of the nervous system.
For 12 years, Mark cared for his wife at their home while also running his business.
Mark said: “People often ask ‘why open a kitchen showroom in Ryhall?’
“Well, at the time, Rosemary had just become ill and I needed it to be somewhere I could just pop home quickly if I needed to.
“MSA is a terminal illness. There is no cure and it was very difficult – horrific – seeing someone you love deteriorate like that.
“I lost her in the summer of 2010. She was 58-years-old. It’s not the same without her and I considered closing the business then but ended up carrying on until now.”
Mark is currently selling off kitchen units and appliances and has put the showroom on the market.
He is not sure what the future holds, but does not plan to retire just yet.
“I always worked six days a week and have not taken much time off for holidays,” he said.
“I haven’t had time for hobbies and don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have some work to keep me occupied. I won’t be retiring and sitting at home all day.
“I’m trying to sell the showroom myself and I think it could be a great location for someone running a similar business or perhaps an internet retailer.
“It’s only a couple of miles from Stamford and has parking out the front, a loading bay and lorry access.
“It’s also possible someone might buy it with a view to seeking planning permission to turn it into a house.”
Mark said that running a kitchens business can at times be stressful.
He said: “People want perfection. It’s not just a case of delivering the units. There’s plumbing, electrics, building work – all of that needs co-ordinating.
“You buy cheap kitchens online nowadays, but you don’t get any of the project management done for you and that is the most challenging part.”
Mark has two grown-up children and four grandchildren who live in the Bourne area.
Looking back over his career he said: “There have been a lot of ups and downs. It has not been easy at all, but I’ve made some good friends over the years and I’m grateful for the support from the many customers I have worked with.
“It’ll be strange not coming in to the showroom every morning, but it’s time for a change for me.”
The showrooms is likely to remain open for a few weeks while stock is sold. For details, call 01780 482892.