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The Fred Winter Story

The 23 year old Suffolk born Frederick Winter (who also described himself as a draper and auctioneer) opened his first store - selling general drapery, haberdashery and high quality outfitting for gentlemen - at 17 & 18 High Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon on June 25th 1858. By 1881 Frederick, his wife Elizabeth and a family of five daughters and 3 sons, plus shop assistants, Clara Cowles, Frank Gibbons, William Porter and James Thornber, and two servants, Mary Lively and May Morris, lived above the shop in what is today Marlow's Restaurant.

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It was Stratford's first real department store (the Shipston sheep farmer JC Smith didn't open his store, now Debenhams, until 1870). Not only was it a huge success with the towns growing population, but also with customers from far and wide, as is the case today. Frederick Winter died in 1897 aged 62, leaving the running of the business to his 31 year old son Fred. Fred was a skilful retailer and businessman who by 1908 had incorporated the spacious premises at 14 High Street (a toy and fancy goods store owned by John Lill, who also ran a toy factory in the town) and number 16 high Street (previously a private house owned by Frederick Winter's niece Sarah Cobeen) and turned it into a thriving business.

In March 1917 Fred bought the Free hold of Reynolds Grocery Store at 30 and 31 High Street and for the next seven years the company operated from both sides of the street, selling everything from rels of cotton, luggage and straw borders to Aquascutum coats. The lease holds of 14, 16, 17 and 18 High Street were relinquished in 1924 and the Fred Winter store, opening solely from 30 - 31 High Street became a limited company. By this time Mr Fred Winter had also become a popular local dignitary, serving as mayor on more than one occasion and was responsible, with Marie Corelli, in uncovering and restoring many of the half-timbered buildings in Stratford. He died aged 71 in 1941.

The business then passed to his 43 yr old son Frederick Charles (Eric) Winter, who instigated innovative retailing changes. plus the modernisation  and enlargement of the store, which - with the building of Bell Court in the 1970's included a large modern extension onto the back of the existing Fred Winter Ltd frontage in the High Street.

Frederick Brian, the great-granson of the founder, took over thebusiness in 1973, which, under his skilfull guidance, acheived unrivaled levels of success inover the next 25 years. By the early 1990's with Brian's son Guy Winter, now in the business, the store became renowned for selling an ever increasing range of mechandise that included furniture, carpets, furnishing fabrics, dress fabrics, haberdashery, ladies fashion and lingerie, bed linen, gifts, and china and glass.

But sadly, by the late 1990s, Bell Court was becoming rather run-down and a decisiion was made to build a brand new store behind an existing building in Henley Street. The large and stylish building was completed in 1999 and has undoubtedly become, over the years, Stratford's Premier Store, with an ever growing range of value conscious merchandise. The company is now under the overall direction of Guy Winter. For a little insight into the mind of our cheif executive please see here.