Inside an Aladdin’s cave

Words and photos: Sean Kisby, first published in Grangetown News

B&Q’s Grangetown superstore closed its doors for good in 2016, so it seems a good time to profile the area’s best known family-run hardware shop, Clarence Hardware.

This Aladdin’s Cave of household items, tools, timber and DIY materials is located on the corner of Stockland Street and Corporation Road. Clarence Hardware proudly declare to have been an established business since 1959, an impressive claim.
I spoke to the shop’s current proprietor, Martyn Thomas, about the shop’s history and plans for the future.
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As many locals will already know, the corner of Stockland Street and Corporation Road was the site of Grangetown’s greatest tragedy. Hollyman’s Bakery, which stood on this spot, during a World War II air raid on January 2nd 1941, suffered a direct hit from a bomb killing 32 people sheltering in its cellar.
The current building was not erected until 1949 or 1950, comprising two well-appointed apartments for visitors of the Coal Board and John Williams Foundry.
Later in the 1950s the ground floor apartment was bought by a plumber, George Parker, who used it to run his business.
 We’ve covered most problems a thousand times before
In 1959 the property was bought by a Trevor Parker (no relation to the plumber). Trevor Parker started a small hardware store in the front room of the building at the Corporation Road end. Clarence Hardware had begun, taking its name from the similarly named features – Clarence Embankment, Clarence Bridge – which honoured the Duke of Clarence, grandson of Queen Victoria.
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Martyn Thomas, the current owner, explains that his father worked for Mr Parker and eventually became general manager. He took ownership of the Stockland Street shop and the family connection has continued ever since.
The shop has grown to fill the entire ground floor and sells thousands of different items, packed from floor to ceiling in five rooms of varying sizes. The range is enormous, everything from plasterboard and timber to the smallest nut, bolt or screw. They have provided a key cutting and locksmith service from the outset.
As well as selling to the general public, Clarence Hardware offers a trade system to local builders, retailers and tradespeople. The shop also has a delivery service using their colourful van, which can often be seen parked in Stockland Street.
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The shop also has a delivery service using their colourful van, which can often be seen parked in Stockland Street.
Martyn has been involved in the business for more than 20 years. When asked whether trade had increased since B&Q closed in May, he says there has been a notable rise in customers.
He is appreciative of the big companies’ power of advertising creating a vast market for DIY products, but is keen to show people what a “proper shop” is.
“We’ve covered most problems a thousand times before,” he said.
“We offer a personal service and one-to-one chat, we’re interested in what your problem is and what is the best way to cure it at a price that is suitable for you using the right product.”
“We’ve really got to give thanks to the people of Grangetown, Butetown, Riverside who have supported us as a family business right from the go. And they come back constantly every year. We in turn support them.”
Martyn added: “If they continue to support us we will continue to give the best that we can.”

Clarence Hardware and DIY Centre, 64a Corporation Road, open 8.30am-5.30pm, Monday to Saturday. Tel: 020 20 387108. Facebook.

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