What can one say about Applebee’s, other than it is one of the oldest shops in Beeston and has been part of the town’s fabric for just over 100 years now.
You want a toy car? Go to Applebee’s. A 25mm washer? Try Applebee’s. A fuse for your clock radio? Applebee’s are bound to have one. In fact, no matter how strange the request Applebee’s are bound to have it somewhere in their Aladdin’s cave of stock.
Started in 1920 by Reginald Applebee, on the High Road at number 64, they moved across the road into number 63, a former Hemmings the Chemists in October 1933, it became an institution for Beestonians in search of an item to help mend, entertain or clean something in their life.
The shop was happily ticking along until 2003, when the owner of the building decided to convert it and number 65, an estate agency, into one shop. Applebee’s had to find a new home. It did at the bottom of Wollaton Road, where it remains, much to the joy of us locals.
Applebee’s has always been a family run business. The latest is Stacey Graham, the great granddaughter of Reginald. Saturday morning might not be the best time to conduct an interview in a busy shop, but between customers, Stacey and I had a good chat about the business.
Firstly, I asked Stacey when she took over the running of the shop. “I took over last November. I used to help in the shop when I was younger, so I was destined to take over one day. Now my children help me out on Saturday, so hopefully they will run it when they are older.”
Have you made many changes since you took over? “I’ve reintroduced Airfix kits, and they are very popular. People buy them, make them, and then bring them into the shop for me to display.” I notice about a dozen on the counter, ranging from a couple of Spitfires to some American jet fighters. There’s also a couple in the window, together with a model railway. “There used to be a model railway at the old shop, so I thought I’d bring that back too. And the old-fashioned practical jokes, that children buy to play on their parents, like they did on theirs.”
When I was a youngster in the 70s, I always had to pop into Applebee’s on a Saturday morning to buy one or two Matchbox models that I didn’t have, from the 75 that they made at any one time. There was always a stepped display of them in the window so people could see what they wanted. “It was my and my sister’s job to move them around on the display. Put the most popular one in the number one spot.”
Besides Saturday, what are the other busiest times of the week? “Generally, it’s Mondays and Fridays.” And what happens if you can’t help a customer? “I’ll send them up to Hickling’s, and if they can’t help with something, then they’ll send that customer to me”. It’s that 1-2-1 service and advice that independents excel with.
Of course no visit to Applebee’s isn’t complete until you’ve seen those rows of drawers behind the counter. “All the fittings came from the old shop. We were lucky that those tall cupboards fitted, as the ceiling in this shop is a lot lower. The drawers originated from the former chemists Hemmings. You can still smell the chemicals in a few of them.”
Two guys come into the shop looking for a nut that would fit an item that they had bought in. Stacey then pulls one of the drawers out and starts hunting for a suitable one. I say “goodbye”, as she finds one that looks like it is the right size.