Thomerson Timber Merchant: End of an era for Bishop family as Crouch End wood shop closes up
PUBLISHED: 17:19 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:53 27 April 2019
After nearly six decades of association with Crouch End, the Bishop family, who have run Thomerson timber shop since 1962, have closed the store.
Stephen, whose parents Don and Patricia set up the shop in the early 1960s, was in Middle Lane last week to sign over the final paperwork.
The family decided to bring its time to a close after dwindling revenues in the last few years.
The business had been shut for a week when the Ham&High visited – but the comforting smell of wood still hung heavily in the air. Panels were propped up against the wall, and dust was still on the workbench, which would have seen a small forest of wood worked on.
Speaking in the workshop where he spent decades, Stephen said the shop began life with the original Mr Thomerson, who used it as a joinery workshop to make windows and doors for the six properties he owned and let out.
Don and Patricia bought and took over the shop with a friend, Ernie. Stephen's parents both had links to the area, growing up in Redstone Road and Elm Grove respectively. Ernie then retired, and after a sales rep, Peter, joined the company in the 1980s, it was boom time at Thomerson.
Stephen said: “We had four 7.5-tonne trucks out the back, continually loading up wood to deliver. We had seven or eight people working here in the office upstairs. But it became too much and was eventually cut back.”
As well as providing wood panels, the shop also serviced some more unusual requests, including making cat coffins. “My dad had a lady come in, who wanted a coffin built for her cat, which was still alive, for when it died.
“We ended up then doing some work for Cats Protection because of it. We've also done cut-outs of the Taj Mahal, Mickey Mouse and a pirate boat for a boy's bed, so he could climb into a ship to go to sleep.”
Crouch End is no stranger to famous faces, several of whom visited the shop, and one of whom ended up working there.
“We've had John Craven come in, Joanna Lumley and Simon Pegg, who lives locally. He came into the shop wearing a baseball cap. A guy who was in here at the time said: 'Did you see who that was?', and I said: 'Yeah, it's that actor, from that film set here [Shaun of the Dead].'
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“We also had Lord Cunliffe's son, Harry, working here. Someone through Dad's dad said he was looking for a Saturday job, so he came in and started working here. Then word got out that he was, and it all got too much attention with people coming in, so he stopped.”
Looking back, Stephen fondly remembers going out with the drivers when he was a seven-year-old boy, particularly the humour of the men he was working with. However when it came to working there full time, his father dissuaded him.
“I always wanted to be involved in the business, and was brought up with the shop,” he said. “He told me that if I thought I was coming in, I had to do so off my own back. So I went off and did a college course in dental work, and as a technician making implants. He basically wanted to make sure I had a back-up.
“So I then worked two jobs – a couple of days working here, and the rest of the time working for a dental lab. Eventually, when I was 21, he asked me to come on board full-time.”
The shop will also be familiar to the GCSE pupils who have called in for help on their resistant materials coursework. “Between us we've had 15 A*s, five As and one B,” he said. “It's something I've enjoyed helping them with.”
Sadly, a tough few trading years have meant the decision was taken to close and sell the shop. It's believed it may stay as a wood shop.
“Last year we were putting money into it. We've had good customers, but we need so much more.
“People aren't doing DIY themselves like they used to. If someone in Crouch End wants something doing, they'll now hire somebody to do it for them.
“Now they'll do the little bits, stuff at the end of jobs. So there's not as much business as there once was. That doesn't keep us going.”
Stephen's parents will be retiring, while he's on the look out for another job.
“It was my mum's decision,” said Stephen. “She was involved in keeping the books before and it stressed her out an incredible amount. She was the one who told my dad to buy it back in the day, so it rounds if off properly.
“We'll miss the shop, we'll miss the customers and we'll miss Crouch End, but we'll be back.”