David retires after 71 years in carpets

MORE than 70 years since he first started work, a Downend businessman is finally preparing to put his feet up.

David Gibbs first started work selling rugs and lino for the Co-op in 1954, after leaving school aged 14 with no qualifications.

He struck out on his own as a carpet fitter in the early 1960s and built a business which became the Bristol Carpet Manufacturing Company, better known simply as Bristol Carpets.

Now ready to retire at the age of 85, David is now handing over to his son John, daughter Debra, nephew David and grandson Jake, who are among 30 people working for the business in Chapel Lane, on the Fishponds Trading Estate.

David says that over 71 years he must have sold “millions of yards” of carpet, but it is the people he is going to miss.

He said: “I still enjoy meeting people. We’ve built a very loyal band of customers – 90% of our business is with people who have been here before.”

Born in Hanham, David went to school in Staple Hill before starting work at the Co-op department store in Castle Street – one of the few shops still trading in the bombed-out area that was later levelled and turned into Castle Park.

After two years of National Service with the Military Police, he decided to set up his own business in 1961.

David said: “I went back to my old job and thought ‘I’m not going to stand this for the rest of my life’.”

As carpets became more popular, David fitted them for several different shops, before making the move into selling them as a discount supplier.

From its first store in Church Street, near Old Market, the growing family business moved to Chapel Lane for the first time in the late 1960s.

It branched out into manufacturing, buying carpet factories in Cornwall and Ireland before moving production to Crews Hole Road, St George, with 12 looms making Axminster carpets in the 1980s, and 200 employees.

The retail side of the business in Chapel Lane was sold to Haskins, but Bristol Carpets returned to the site, and to sales, in 2004, after moving out of manufacturing and selling the Crews Hole site for development, with the looms going to China.

After retirement David will concentrate on charity work which he does with a group of friends. They pick a different charity to support every year – this year it is the Great Western Air Ambulance charity.

But David won’t be able to resist returning to the shop once in a while, saying: “I’ll come in and stir them up a bit!”