Jarvis Brothers Store at the Heart of the Community

The businessman running long-established Forfar department store Jarvis Brothers has no thoughts of retirement, even though he will be 80 on his next birthday.

The retailer was started in 1884 by William and George Jarvis, who built the shop’s current premises on Castle Street in 1892 for £4,000.

The firm initially manufactured clothing and curtains, and supplied carpets and rugs.

Jarvis Brothers has successfully navigated through numerous challenging global events including the First World War, the Great Depression and the Second World War.

With buying habits changing, the business later began to focus on providing ready-made, high-quality products.

The current owner is Charles Jarvis, grandson of William Jarvis.

Charles trained as a chartered accountant before joining the family firm in 1966 and taking charge 10 years later.

He said: “We’re tremendously proud of our business here in Forfar.  We’ve been operating from the Victorian era through to the Elizabethan era and from the Great Depression through until the worldwide financial troubles of 2008 and then the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While we’ve experienced hard times, we’ve developed a strong sense of resilience and I believe we’ll continue to serve the people of Scotland well for the foreseeable future.”

The goods that Jarvis Brothers specialises in include menswear and ladieswear, curtains and blinds, carpets, rugs, beds and bedding and travel accessories.

But Charles stressed: “We are not interested in selling anything cheap.  We have many regular customers and new ones too.  People come to us from many parts – from a s far away as Perth and Fife.

“We stock quality goods and that is what our customers are after.  We sell things that will last – and they are good value because of this.”

Charles said the popularity of Internet shopping has led to fewer stores in the area, but he feels there is still a place for brick-and-mortar outlets.

He added: “Our customers like being able to try on the menswear and ladieswear and discover how it feels and looks on them.

“You can buy something from an online shop, but that frequently leads to disappointment as it may turn out not to be the quality you expected.

“You can also end up having to pay postage for goods, as well as having to wait in the house for a delivery.”

Charles employs a loyal team of 10 at the shop, with many of them having been with him for decades and despite now being 79, he has no plans to retire.

The businessman explained: “My father worked until he was 89.  We have good staff and I like the customers, who you become good friends with.

“And it is nice to see the store continuing for as long as it has done.”

Charles said Jarvis Brothers had managed to thrive over many decades by adapting to circumstances and not overspending.  He was proud to report that the business is profitable and hasn’t had an overdraft for 20 or 30 years.

The store originally partnered with the British Linen Bank, which later became part of the Bank of Scotland, and it has remained by the side of the business from 1884.

Gordon Paterson, bank manager at Bank of Scotland, said: “Jarvis Brothers is an example of a Scottish business that has been at the heart of its local community for a considerable length of time.  Despite operating through some of the most difficult times in recent memory, it’s terrific to see the store still trading strongly and looking to the future with such optimism.”

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