Slees Home Hardware, formerly Frank Slee Ironmongers was first established in 1923 by the first ‘Slee’ generation Frank Slee.
After coming back from the Great War his father, Harry built the shop on the site of an old farm with the size of the shop itself being only a quarter of what it is now.
Frank was joined by his two sons, Peter and John in the 1950s and created another arm of the business being qualified electricians, and they took on apprentices to train. The shop was then extended in the late 1960s into what was our Great Uncles men’s outfitters when they retired. This was instigated by the two brothers who wanted to expand the business.
Both Frank and John died in the early 1970s leaving Peter to pick up the pieces and cope with paying off double death duties. Which meant him working night and day to keep the business afloat. Peter’s wife, Margaret had enough inheritance money from her late father to buy the small shop further down Caen Street which luckily joined the back of the main shop just in case Peter had to vacate it if there wasn’t enough income to run it.
There was never any intention for the shop to continue beyond Peter until his daughter Alison married Gary Serret who decided to join in the late 1980s as a lawnmower engineer. The business was expanded once again taking down the old barns at the back of the shop and creating a workshop and garden section where the garden section still is today.
In the late 1990s Alison joined the business full time and with long-established local staff continued to innovate the shop under Peter’s watchful eye!
On Peter’s death in 2010 Gary and Alison continued to run the shop in partnership until Gary’s sudden death in 2015.
In 2019, it was joined by a fourth generation, Imogen, Gary & Alison’s eldest daughter who is in the process of pulling the shop into the 21st Century with an online presence.
In 2023, we will be celebrating 100 years trading thanks to the tenacity of the previous generations and their foresight in being one of the North Devon retailers to join together to create the beginnings of what is now Home Hardware South West, a dealer owned wholesale company.
Photo 1: Shop in South Street, Woolacombe which was an offshoot of the Braunton one. Opened in the summer seasons. Closed in the late 70’s.
Photo 2: Aerial view of the shop in the 90’s
Photo 3: The original board of directors of Home Hardware South West Ltd. Peter Slee situated fourth in from the left.
Photo 4: shop in the 1940’s
Photo 5: original farmhouse before it was demolished and the shop built in its place.