A family-run business that began in Otley nearly 150 years ago is looking forward to starting the new year from a much bigger base.
Barber’s Tobacconist and Artamis Gifts recently increased the size of its store by almost 50 per cent, making it one of the town’s biggest independent retailers, with more than 4,000 sq ft of floorspace, The expansion has involved transforming the Westgate shop’s former warehouse space into a sales area for gifts, home furnishings, antiques and children’s clothing.
The tobacconist side of the business was founded in Otley in 1867 by current owner James Barber’s great grandfather, Joseph. Mr Barber hopes the larger shop will allow it to grow and prosper for many more years to come.
He said: “The business has been in our family for five generations now. It’s safe to say that it’s in my blood!
“One of the best things about the expansion is that it retains all of the traditions of the tobacconist whilst offering new additions such as furniture and giftware.
“We want to build and grow the business without straying from its heritage, which has been part of the local community for nearly 150 years.”
Mr Barber’s wife Angela, the co-owner, added: “We’re really excited about the expansion. It’s a real treasure trove of unique giftware.We’re proud to be part of the local community. There are some great independent businesses in the area.”
Three new members of staff have been recruited to support the expanded business, whose online shop sells and sends specialist gifts to customers around the world.
Mr and Mrs Barber’s daughter, Alicia, has also joined the business – the fifth generation of the family to be involved – and is responsible for marketing the company and helping to run its website.
She said: “I’m really proud to be joining the family business. There’s so much history behind it. Hopefully I’ll bring something new to the role and it will remain in the family for generations to come.”
The original part of the shop continues to operate as a traditional tobacconist, a trade whose origins lie in Joseph Barber’s 19th Century trips to the USA where, after tending the land for five years, he bought two plots in Virginia and Kentucky.
After setting up tobacco plantations, Mr Barber crossed the Atlantic more than 30 times as he continued to visit his plantations and import tobacco to England.
James Barber, who took over the business in 1980, started trading on the internet in 1997 and moved to the new location on Westgate in 2007, when he also rebranded the business as Barber’s Tobacconist and Artamis Gifts.
The family is looking forward to celebrating the firm’s 150th anniversary in 2017.