A couple who have run a family business in Marsh for over a quarter-of-a-century are to retire at the end of the month.

It will be the end of an era for Andrew and Carol Starkey as they pull down the shutters for the last time at Marsh Carpets in Westbourne Road.

“We’ll miss it, of course,” said Andrew, 65. “Running a business is a way of life and the thing we’ll miss most of all are our loyal customers, many of whom have become friends.”

Andrew took over Marsh Carpets on January 1 1997 and was joined in the business part-time by Carol a few years later.

The couple have since seen their customers’ families grow up and they have supplied carpets to the different generations.

Andrew and Carol are at the heart of the Marsh community and people often just pop in for a chat and a brew.

It caused a bit of a stir when the couple announced they were to close the shop for good, probably at the end of February or early March, depending on when their remaining stock is sold.

“People were saying: ‘Where can we go now to get our carpets from?’” said Andrew. “In fact we’re saying the same thing. Where do we get OUR carpets from now?”

Andrew and Carol Starkey

Andrew went into the carpet industry straight from school and learned his trade with a well-established carpet retailer before becoming a fitter at Marsh Carpets.

Marsh Carpets was opened in 1976 by Mike and Jean Day and after working there for several years Andrew went into partnership with the owners on the understanding he would take over when they retired.

That’s what happened and when Andrew took over in 1997 he moved the business across the road from 41 Westbourne Road to 82-84 Westbourne Road where it remains.

Andrew has seen many changes to how carpets are made, the move from patterns to plains and also the challenge from volume retailers – what he describes as the “big sheds.”

“We’ve always had a good following from local people who like the personal service that we offer,” said Andrew.

“We’ve had people coming back to us for years. They maybe do one room at a time and when they’ve gone through the house they start again. It’s like the Forth Bridge!

“We’ve had customers come in with their children and we’ve seen the children grow up and become customers themselves.”

Andrew and Carol have two daughters Emma and Laura and three grandchildren and look forward to spending more time with their family in retirement – and also catch up on the holidays they’ve missed down the years.

The shop is selling all its remaining stock including carpets, vinyls and blinds and the couple hope regular customers will call in to say goodbye.

“We just want to thank all our customers for their support down the years and wish everyone all the best for the future,” said Andrew.