Handcrafted British furniture maker Arlo & Jacob opens at Ben’s Yard near Ely
Arlo & Jacob, which makes handcrafted furniture in the East Midlands, is opening a new showroom at Ben’s Yard today (August 25).
The family business makes sofas, chairs and footstools, using traditional techniques, and has earmarked 2023 for expansion.
The store at Ben’s Yard - the recently-opened independent retail village on the Stuntney Estate near Ely - will showcase its designs and fabrics.
“We’ve got three new stores in the pipeline, so it’s very busy for us at the moment,” said managing director Lisa Broad, alluding to other upcoming openings at Wilmslow in Cheshire and Guildford in Surrey, which will join its existing showrooms in Islington, Marlow, Bristol, Harrogate and Melbourne in Derby.
“We have been looking to expand the brand and we wanted to open up in the Cambridgeshire area. Ben’s Yard felt right us. We want to try a mixture of high street and out-of-town locations, so this is perfect.
“We’ll be showcasing our best-selling models and lots of shapes and varieties - the different designs and comforts, and we’ll have our whole fabric choice as well.”
At around 1,500ft the store will be smaller than its usual showrooms, but Lisa promised it would give customers “a really good sense of what we’re about”.
And that is about designing, hand-making and personally delivering upholstered furniture.
“We are traditional in the way we do things, rather than going for volume production,” explained Lisa.
“From start to finish, one person upholsters your product to make sure you have that consistent approach and care with the handcrafted nature of what we do.
“We don’t stock anything - it’s all made to order for the customer. We buy the fabric for customers. All the frames are made specifically for customers - nothing sits on the shelf.
“It really is specifically for that person.”
While Arlo & Jacob has a standard collection of set sizes for its sofas, it can also tailor those to room requirements.
“We have our own wood factory where the feet are all hand-turned too,” added Lisa. “We can chop and change things from range to range so we do have that tailor-made approach to everything and that’s what makes us different to a lot of the competition.
“We can go that extra mile and do the drawing out and planning for customers, and we do a lot of visualisation with mood-boarding.”
Even the filling can be tailored.
“We use a lot of different fillings. It could be solid foam, or foam with fibre or feather toppers, a bit like a mattress, or you can have a foam core that is then effectively wrapped in a feather duvet. There’s a wide variety,” said Lisa, adding that the business is also about to launch a range of occasional items - coffee tables and side tables - made in the East Midlands.
There is a lifetime guarantee on hardwood frames and steel springs, 120 fabrics to choose from, and items are made and delivered in five to seven weeks.
It is a business that could have been lost when Laura Ashley, which it used to supply, went under.
“We acquired the brand in May 2020,” said Lisa. “The previous owners’ grandchildren were called Arlo & Jacob and the business was part of a big group that supplied a lot to Laura Ashley.
“We as business partners loved the brand and knew we could bring it back to life and give opportunities back to staff. It was a really nice thing to do during the pandemic to save a lot of people’s jobs and start up production again.”
Lisa and her business partners worked for TCM, which supplied retailers, and have years of experience in furniture.
Now they are using that to expand a business that does things a little differently.