Parting gift: Bluck’s bows out with stock sale
An iconic Front Street fixture will give shoppers the chance to buy a piece of history when its stock goes up for sale tomorrow.
Bluck's of Bermuda will open its doors to the public after the 175-year-old china, crystal and antiques shop ceased trading last month.
The company said its closure was a sign of changing lifestyles and spending habits.
Peter Darling, who represents the third generation of his family to run the store, reflected yesterday on the boom times as he insisted every effort was made to stop the firm from going bust.
He said: “We tried as hard as we could, we got down to the point where we have had no cleaners for the past ten years. We hadn't been buying any packaging, bags or boxes for ten years, we've just reused the ones that came to us.”
Mr Darling added: “The fact that we survived for 175 years, I think, deserves a little bit of credit.
“Most local Bermuda retailers do it for the love of it.
“I would say the glory days of retail — when we actually made money — ended in the 1990s.”
The shop started as a hardware store when it was founded by William Bluck in 1844.
Leslie Darling, Mr Darling's grandfather, bought and took over the business in 1942 after the death of his business partner, John Bluck.
At its height it operated eight premises from St George's to Dockyard and employed 42 staff. Three full-time and two part-time employees remained when it closed.
Mr Darling, who was the recent managing director and majority owner, recalled “amazing sales”.
He said: “Back in 2005 to 2006 I was commissioned to do a 500-piece dinner service with 22-carat gold overlay. That was from a regular visitor to Bermuda who had been coming for 40 years.
“They had been coming to Bluck's and finally sold their company for billions of dollars and wanted something magnificent in their new magnificent home.”
Mr Darling also told how a visiting Saudi Arabian family ordered 300 Waterford Crystal glasses as well as “very expensive” china platters in Royal Crown Derby and Herend Porcelain to be delivered for use during their stay at what is now the Fairmont Southampton.
He was also proud of the afternoon tea set created with prestigious Herend Porcelain after a commission from the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club for its Crown and Anchor restaurant.
Mr Darling, who said his Rolodex of Bluck's staff members since 1942 is like “the whole phone book of Bermuda”, described recent weeks as horrific but said messages from wellwishers had been like therapy.
He explained: “The community at large have been 100 per cent kind, supportive and understanding. They have written very kind letters to us and called.
“It's sort of like the death of your favourite grandparent — everybody knew it was going to happen but when it did, it took everybody by surprise.”
Liquidators from KPMG have arranged a stock sale to start from 2pm tomorrow. It was hoped the shop will open in the afternoons and evenings for the rest of the week.
Mr Darling said that as well as the china and crystalware, customers will also have the chance to purchase antique furniture used to display items from 1750 onwards.
He added: “It's a wonderful opportunity to buy a decent piece of furniture but also to buy a piece of history.”
Somers Cooper, the managing director of the retail chain AS Cooper & Sons, said: “The demise of Bluck's is a shame, but not unexpected.
“No one likes to see a fixture like Bluck's disappear, but in their case it was china and crystal, which has been sinking for some time.”
His own business was originally built around high-end “tabletop” merchandise, Mr Cooper said, which today brings in about 5 per cent of sales.
He added: “Consumer tastes have changed.
“The retail landscape is constantly changing. It's up to retailers to adapt. It's all about trying to have exclusive brands and for the right price.
“There's a lot of talk about Amazon, but we can still beat their price every day of the week.”
Mr Cooper added: “Brick and mortar retail is really important to any community. When any store closes, the community loses a bit of its soul.”
He claimed there was “nobody working harder these days” than Bermuda's retailers.
Mr Cooper said: “Hopefully, the public can be more aware of how important local retail is.
“It keeps our brothers, sisters and cousins working.
“People still talk about missing the big stores like Trimingham's and Smith's. It was a big loss for Bermuda.”