Fred Aldous - a story about a family business, beards and a lot of people called Fred
PUBLISHED: 16:16 26 September 2013 | UPDATED: 16:16 26 September 2013
To say Fred Aldous is a craft shop is like saying Virgin is a travel agents. It’s also a design hub, stationers and haberdashers and it has been in the city since 1886. It’s a mecca for the designer and arty types in the city with around 20,000 crafty items and a wonderful vintage photo booth. Five generations of the family have survived two world wars, fires, break-ins and recession and the result is a true Manchester treasure.
In their own words...”The story of Fred Aldous Ltd is a tale that spans 125 years. It is a story about a family business, beards and a lot of people called Fred. It’s also a story about pulling together to triumph over adversity, but most of all it is a story that reveals how our loyal tribe of staff and customers (and a few smart ideas) have helped us to remain a unique creative enterprise after all these years. Because a lot can happen over 12 and a half decades.”
You can read all about their long and colourful history on their website - a tale they’ve dubbed The Beast, starting with their founder Frederick Aldous or Fred the First, right up to the present day, however we wanted to know more so we asked current boss Robert Aldous...
What is the secret of Fred Aldous’s longevity?
Fred Aldous has great longevity because everyone who works here loves the materials we
sell and has a passion for the processes involved in putting them to use. Everyone that has
been at the helm over the years has not seen it as a birthright but as a very privileged position.
I have been in training to run this company all my life and I love it more every day.
I don’t know if you get to know what people are creating when they come into the shop but what’s the most extraordinary/crazy thing anyone has ever made in the history of Fred Aldous?
We get Wonderful requests every single day,
“I’m making a 100ft monkey can you help?”
“I need to make an exact replica of a Tibetan statue”
“’I would like to make a cameo brooch of a Clowns face or Grecian lady size 1 3/4” X 1 1/2” possibly made from plaster of Paris. Would order from you if available”
“’Hi there.... I am in search of the small plastic beating hearts that you place inside the toys.....any help regarding these would be greatly appreciated...”
We have had people paint every single paint by number and then started again at the beginning!
We love each and every request we get we always try and give people the right information in a completely unbiased way. Even if that means sending them to a competitor.
What are your best-sellers now and in the past?
With such a large inventory it’s hard to pick any one product. We stock over 25,000 products that’s more than most supermarkets. At the moment you can see our bestsellers on the home page. www.fredaldous.co.uk
We started supplying cane to basket makers and we still do to this day.
Any famous customers?
All our customers are superstars, but some of the more well known include Peter Kay, Helena Bonham Carter and Bez from the Happy Mondays
Would you say that craft is enjoying a resurgence of popularity?
There is a great resurgence in traditional crafts like macramé, people are finding new ways to use old techniques and apply them in a contemporary way. I love this because it keeps the old techniques alive, but it moves things forward.
What kinds of classes do you run there?
All our classes are run by the Ministry Of Craft they offer a huge range, check them out here.
What events do you have coming up?
We have nearly finished the refurbishment of our ground floor shop. We are hoping to have a little event to celebrate its completion. Not sure of the details yet.
What would you like to see happening there in the future?
Who knows what the future holds, but as long as people keep making things Fred Aldous will be there to help them.
37 Lever Street,
161 236 4224, www.fredaldous.co.uk