In a continuing series helping to promote some of our great local businesses, Marcus Atkins talks to this iconic Farnham based company
One of the most famous sites in Farnham is the Shepherd and Flock roundabout; it’s recognised as perhaps the largest inhabited roundabout in the UK, and anyone who has driven around this large road island will most certainly have noticed Bourne Buildings on the western outside edge of this landmark.
This family run business celebrates its 21st anniversary this month, it was started up by husband and wife Denis and Debbie McKay back in April 1995. They were previously running a successful local milk round business since the couple had moved to the area in 1989, but on a chance visit to the Bourne Mill Antiques centre, an opportunity arose to develop the site adjacent to it, which had already begun to sell some sheds and a variety of stone ornaments.
Soon after Denis and Debbie took over the site, they gained a reputation for their amusing and witty banners advertising their sheds which could be seen by passing motorists. One of the early ones even gained press attention at the time during the summer of 1996, when their banner read ‘P REG SHEDS – COME IN FOR A TEST DRIVE’, which tied in with the launch of the new P registration cars which were available to buy from August 1st 1996.
For the 21 years since, there have been numerous banners which have amused and entertained passers-by, often seasonal slogans, notably ‘A shed is for life, not just for Christmas’, ‘Easter sheds – plain or milk’, ‘Now is the winter of our discount sheds’. They have even felt the nation’s desire to free the Weatherfield One, the Coronation Street character Deirdre Barlow who was wrongly imprisoned in 1998; the Bourne Buildings banner of the time was ‘Shed a tear for Deirdre’, brilliant!
The Bourne Buildings site itself is quite incredible. From the road you’d never guess that there was such a huge selection of sheds, summerhouses and offices, garages, playhouses and gazebos that can be viewed, which makes choosing the right construction much easier than simply viewing from a printed brochure or looking at an image on a screen from a website. A regular comment from customers is ‘I’ve been driving past for years, didn’t quite realise how many sheds you had on display, let alone the picturesque setting including a 100 foot lake.’
Bourne Buildings is truly a family affair, the McKay’s eldest son Craig joined the business full time 10 years ago, although he was regularly on site as a boy; he even sold his first shed at the age of just 12. Craig explained that the company’s values ‘best service, best selection, and best prices’ is an ethos which is simple and very effective. Craig tells me that Bourne Buildings have always been keen to source the best quality products from UK companies, something else of which they are proud.
At the time Craig joined the family business in 2005, Bourne Buildings was open seven days a week, but the decision was taken then to close on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, in order for them to enjoy their business relationship, but to maintain a healthy family relationship outside of work. So please remember when wanting to view their massive selection of buildings and ornaments, don’t visit Tuesdays or Wednesdays. They are however open both Saturdays and Sundays, and every Bank Holiday Monday and Good Friday.
Despite the market changing over recent years, whereby people turn to the internet for the very best prices, Bourne Buildings have decided actively not to publish prices of their products on their website. Craig continues to explain to me that they don’t struggle with competing with other sheds online; they pride themselves that they are cheaper when comparing the products like-for-like. “An image and a price is not enough information in order to judge the quality or value for money, so people come to us to see the sheds in the flesh”.
Bourne Buildings have always been pioneers in this field; they are the ones who push product development with their suppliers, whether it’s double-glazed and insulated garden offices, or whether it’s advising the producers to manufacture buildings that are no higher than 2.5 metre high, so that their customers can have the timber building in their garden without requiring planning permission. They continually pass on new customer requirements up the chain to the manufacturers, and it’s this feedback that means that Bourne Buildings regularly win the country’s ‘Top Site’ award from pretty much all their suppliers.
The McKays feel that the quality and sheer exhaustive selection of timber buildings on display at their site cannot be explained in words or by viewing their website. You simply must get yourselves down to the Shepherd and Flock Roundabout to see for yourself, and you can also have a chuckle as you see their latest amusing banner.