Marshalls hand over to our House to Haven founder, Sarah
If you’re from Cranfield or one of the surrounding villages, you may have noticed the buzz growing around the unveiling of 130 High Street. There’s been a fair amount of banging and the smell of fresh paint coming out of the shop where owners, Martyn and Dorothy Marshall, have worked hard to reshape and redecorate what was Marshall’s Hardware for almost thirty years.
You may also have had an inkling that the Marshalls have now passed the baton to us and we’re busy behind the scenes creating our beautiful House to Haven shop as we speak. We simply can’t wait to share our stunning homeware ranges with you. Oh, and we have not one opening day to look forward to, but an entire special week planned – very exciting!
Our founder, Sarah, a Cranfield resident since 2012, was keen to find a home within the village for her family-owned business.
“My dream is for local people to able to buy affordable home decor treasures and unique gifts from our handpicked collections,” she says. “I can’t wait to also offer inspiration and tips in person, and through our styling and upcycling throughout the shop.”
Martyn and Dorothy have officially handed the shop over to Sarah. “They’ve done a fantastic job refurbishing the space,” she adds. “We’ve just installed new wooden flooring and are so happy with the colour scheme of the front door which is in keeping with the style and history of the 1850s building and neighbouring homes. The Marshall’s house next door dates back as far as 1650.
“We’ve decked out a new storage area where I can pack online orders and create beautiful wreaths, upcycling projects and other masterpieces. Upcycling is an important part of our eco-friendly approach and I’ve been lovingly restoring a vintage bicycle that will be parked outside. Its basket will house flowers and passing treats for pooches, with water bowls underneath as we’re a dog-friendly shop.”
From Marshalls Hardware to House to Haven homeware
It seems fitting that a homeware store should follow on from Marshalls Hardware. The space has served local villages as a hardware shop since the mid-1960s when it was owned by Archie Weavell. Martyn and Dorothy arrived in Cranfield in 1993 when they took over from its second hardware owner, Bill Adams, and hoped to have a change of lifestyle after living and working in London.
“My family have been in the hardware business for 140 years,” says Martyn. “I was fourth generation, and the Marshall name was a part of the tapestry in North London. My wife, Dorothy, and I hoped to achieve the same thing here in Cranfield. With my experience in the trade and Dorothy’s in book-keeping and administration, we felt we’d make a great team.”
Proud to serve the local community
The Marshalls achieved their ambition of becoming a valuable part of the community. In its heyday, the DIY shop served all villages surrounding Cranfield. “A tradesman tasked with hanging a door would pop in for hinges, handles and paint,” says Martyn. “Residents would come in for a good chat on top of what they needed, with some even coming back to buy from us after they’d moved away.”
“Wives would say to their husbands, ‘I’ll see you in an hour and a half,’ when they said they were coming to see us”, adds Dorothy. “We’re so proud to have been a part of the community for so long. We’ve sponsored the Cranfield Colts in the past and provided raffle prizes to local causes.”
Being a resident of Cranfield herself, Sarah also hopes to support her community with home decor and craft workshops, pet events and VIP and charity events.
“I love the local support of the Cranfield high street and am looking forward to being even more involved. I ran the Cranfield Christmas Shoebox Appeal in December 2020, where the Co-op kindly offered to be the drop-off point and we collected more than fifty boxes for children in need in Central Asia. This is something House to Haven will continue again this year.”
Martyn and Dorothy couldn’t agree more about the community spirit. Both had been working long six-day weeks for many years when Martyn was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. Dorothy worked hard to keep the shop running and while he bravely went through the ordeal of his treatment.
“People in the village were so supportive when Martyn was in hospital, it felt like everyone wrote a card,” says Dorothy. “It was very moving having so much support and is the best example of what a community really is,” adds Martyn.
The Marshalls were mindful that Martyn’s father had run his hardware business until he was 76 and only had four years to enjoy his retirement before he sadly passed away.
“We’d spent so many hours working in the shop because it’s what I knew growing up. Dorothy and I used to take time off one at a time when our children were young to take them on holiday,” says Martyn. “My being so ill made us look at things differently and I didn’t want to wait to retire like my father. I want to live life to the full and we both would like to enjoy time with our grandchildren and holidays together.”
“House to Haven is the business we believe will benefit our community the most.”
Martyn and Dorothy also feel strongly that high street hardware shops are struggling to compete with large chains and online retailers, and this was another good reason to retire. Many are closing and their own business was certainly feeling the strain with people only popping in for the odd item.
“We managed to turn around what was a failing hardware shop back in the nineties just by opening on Mondays, Wednesday afternoons and lunchtimes. However, despite an unexpected spike in business during the first lockdown last year, where we were the only DIY shop open within a 100-mile radius and Martyn was making personal deliveries, our business had done its thing” says Dorothy. “It’s the end of an era”.
Little did Sarah know that an enquiry to the Marshall’s daughter about whether they might be interested in selling or letting their shop space at some point sparked them to think about retiring long before they made their final decision.
“We’d been approached by different people, but House to Haven is the business we believe will benefit our community the most. It has the added bonus of being online,” says Dorothy. “We feel the shop will have people itching to go in. With hardware, you go if you need something. With Sarah’s shop, you will come out with an armful of things you hadn’t intended to buy.”
“The hardware shop has gone but now locals can go to the same premises and buy something to make your house beautiful,” adds Dorothy. This is a great legacy for Marshalls, the ideal way to continue how useful it was when the shop was in its prime and we hope the community welcomes Sarah and House to Haven in the same way as they did our family and shop.”
A nod to Cranfield village history
Martyn and Dorothy wanted to give Sarah a blank canvas to work with and spent over two months renovating what they found to be surprise holes in the floor and cardboard in the roof – things they’d inherited from Bill Adams without knowing. They worked side-by-side with local tradesmen who have been customers over the years.
“It’s important for us to keep a little bit of the shop’s history as part of our new decor at House to Haven so we plan to pop photos of the past stores on our walls as a nod to bygone times,” says Sarah.
I’ll also be keeping the doorbell as I love the antique style. Every ring will take me back to the shopkeepers that were once here, including the Marshalls. I’m excited to continue the tradition of the shop space and hope to become an honourable shop member of the community.
“We have a coffee shop, hairdressers and barber, doctors’ surgery, dentist, pharmacy and two supermarkets in Cranfield,” says Sarah. “As a local, I’ve always wanted a home accessories and gift shop in the village. Now, I’m so happy I can make that wish come true for others.”
The Marshall’s couldn’t agree more. “As we still live next door, I know Dorothy is going to regularly come out with bags full of new things from the shop. We want nothing more than for House to Haven to succeed and wish Sarah the very best,” concludes Martyn.
Did someone say goody bag? Don’t miss our official opening week!
Watch this space for news of our fabulous official opening date. If you live in Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and beyond, we’d love to see you. On the day, the first fifty customers will be greeted with a glass of bubbles, cake and a goody bag with free gifts and discount vouchers as you browse our beautiful ranges for your home and garden.
We’ll also be giving away a free gift with every £25 spent online for five days before the official opening day on Saturday 24th July. There’ll also be an opportunity to enter a raffle to win amazing goodies, like a summer garden hamper and stunning bouquet of faux flowers to help make your house a haven. All proceeds raised will go to Decorate A Child’s Life, a Childhood Trust’s volunteer programme that redecorates dilapidated bedrooms of children in poverty.