After a distinguished career as a Tank Commander in the 7th Armoured Division (The desert rats) and 8 years in the newly formed N.H.S operating in the role of Chief administrator, our founder Len Coller decided to take a change of direction.
In the late 50s he set himself up as a mobile greengrocer serving Bristol and the surrounding countryside. To call him simply a greengrocer is doing him a disservice, for as long as it was a good deal Len would pretty much sell you anything.
During the early 60s whilst enjoying a well deserved holiday in Portugal he stumbled across a little shop which had a dining set in it that would be a perfect addition to the family kitchen. At the end of the holiday he returned to the shop and after some fierce negotiation he agreed a discounted price on the dining set (Len ended up giving the shop keeper the price on the ticket anyway!). The dining set went up on the roof rack and the family Coller were on their way home. On return he received many compliments about his new dining set from friends and neighbours, some even joked that if Len ever went back to the shop could he bring one back for them. The following year the family did return to Portugal…but this time in a lorry!
The furniture proved extremely popular with his regulars, so much so that in 1967 he handed the grocery round over to "Uncle Fred" and acquired the lease of 48 Sandy Park Road in Brislington. Park Furnishers was founded. Len sold the furniture during the day and delivered it during the evening. It wasn’t long before he had established a very successful business. However even successful businesses aren’t without their strains and unfortunately Len fell ill.
In 1970 Len’s son Deryn took compassionate leave from the Metropolitan Police to steady the ship in his father’s absence. He acquired number 50 Sandy Park Road and proceeded to knock through into Number 48 doubling the sales area. Deryn never returned to the police force.
The next year with Len back on his feet they opened another shop in Ashton Drive. It was during this year that late night shopping was first introduced at Park Furnishers. To thank our customers who came in on Friday night they were offered a glass (or two) of sherry. Those who didn’t drink sherry were offered wine. By customer demand Park Furnishers were soon serving drinks anytime the shop was open. Nowadays its just tea, coffee or soft drinks - but there are still occasions throughout the year when the bubbly flows!
In 1972 the lease on a large warehouse unit was acquired on South Liberty Lane. Over the next 3 years a further 5 units were taken and Park Furnishers grew to a total of 30000 square feet of sales space with a large storage capacity.
In 1977 a large national furniture company decided to close their premises at Willway Street, Bedminster after little more than a years trading. Len and Deryn took over the lease on Willway Street where we remain today and closed the other units. The total sales area now stood in excess of 50000 square feet.
In August 1979, Combined English Stores made Len and Deryn an offer they couldn’t refuse and the Collers left the business. Two years later in 1981, as Park Furnishers was on the verge of folding, CES sold the business back to Deryn and Len for just £1.
Back under Coller control, Deryn and Len leased a 24,000 square foot warehouse nearby and turned the whole of the Willway Street site into a 50,000 square feet furniture showroom. The next few years were difficult, but through hard work, good management and a willing, faithful work force, the damage done by CES was repaired.
It was throughout the 70s and 80s that Park Furnishers first got involved with sponsoring local sport. Powerboat racing, football, basketball, cycling, and marathons are just some of the sports that Park Furnishers has supported over the years. Currently Park Furnishers are one of the major sponsors of Bristol Rugby. It was also during the 80s that Park Furnishers ventured into Hot Air Ballooning. The fifth Park Furnishers balloon can be seen flying over the city between March and October.
In 1993 Park Furnishers expanded again adding a mezzanine floor to accommodate a new fitted Kitchen and bedroom studio.
In 1994 after a period of semi-retirement, Len Coller retired from the business handing the business over to Deryn. It was also in 1994 that Deryn’s son James joined the company after an entrepreneurial career in retail clothing and French property development. Having started his time in the family business in the warehouse, James is now the Director heading up the buying team.
In 1998 Deryn’s other son Tim joined the company after working in the financial sector having just gained a degree in business studies at Oxford.
Between 1996 and 2002 further mezzanine floors were added along with the Corinthian pillars and sweeping staircases that have since become a feature of the store; plus in 2004, an extension was added to the warehouse. By now the company had grown from a mere 959 square feet to a massive 70,000 square feet. It was now not only the largest furniture store in Bristol, but there were very few furniture stores in the south of England that could match it for choice, quality, service and price.
In 2006 Deryn retired from the business leaving it to the third generation of Collers. Tim Coller became MD supported by his older brother James.
The company continued to flourish even through the worst depression that the UK had experienced since Len Coller started the business 40 years earlier.
It was always Tim’s ambition to expand the business in line with what his father and grandfather had achieved. In July 2011 a new warehouse was acquired at Second Way, Avonmouth close to the M4/M5 interchange. In August of that year the warehouse was relocated and work started at Willway Street to convert the vacated area into extra retail space.
By Christmas the conversion was completed expanding the store by 50% to an astonishing 105,000 square feet of retail space.
In 2012, Park Furnishers celebrated its 45th anniversary. As part of those celebrations the store and staff raised £45,000 for St Peters Hospice. This is the largest amount of money that has ever been raised for the hospice in a single year by one company.
Throughout the last forty five years, Park Furnishers has undergone many changes and alterations, but the guiding principles remain constant. Park Furnishers is not only committed to offering a massive choice of high quality furniture at an affordable price, but is dedicated to providing the very best in customer care and service.
Sadly on May 29th 2012, Len Coller passed away.