Bury St Edmunds furnishing retailer passes away

Leslie Glasswell, joint founder of East Anglia-based furniture and furnishings retailer Glasswells, has died at the age of 88.

Mr Glasswell and his father Jerry opened their first shop in Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds, in May 1946, having previously worked together for a local auctioneer’s firm involved in country house clearances.

In their early days Glasswells sold second hand and utility furniture, but they then moved on to new furniture as they needed more supplies.

Stock was held in a series of small warehouses, ready for quick delivery, and shops were also opened in a number of neighbouring towns, alongside the staging of regular exhibitions in public halls.

The business thrived, with Leslie proving a shrewd judge as the buyer of all its stock, and three larger shops were eventually opened in Bury town centre.

Together with Vic Brega, Leslie also conceived the Kingsbury Warehouse chain of furniture stores which proved highly successful and was eventually sold in 1976, with the proceeds securing the continued growth of the family firm.

The large out-of-town store in Bury where the firm’s flagship store is now based was acquired in 1992 and, as chairman of the company in his later years, Leslie continiued to guide the direction and success of the business as it launched a similar store in Ipswich in 2008.

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Including its successful removals, storage, restaurant and contracts businesses as well as the retail side, Glasswells now employs more than 260 people.

Leslie spent his formative years in Ilford, London, starting work at the age of 15 as a window cleaner, before the family moved to Bury St Edmunds – where his father, who died in 1984, had grown up – during the Second World War, which saw Leslie serve with the RAF in Canada.

During his years in business, he served on the boards of the National Association of Retail Furnishers and the Associated Independent Stores group and, locally, was chairman of the chamber of commerce.

Outside of work, Leslie had a passion for tennis and golf, being a past captain of both the Risbygate tennis and Bury golf clubs, and was active in charity fundraising with both the Round Table and Rotary organisations.

Leslie Glasswell, who died on Saturday, November 26, leaves his wife of 59 years, Heather, three children, Susan, Judy and Paul, and seven grandchildren.

Paul Glasswell, who is now managing director of the family firm, said that his father “enjoyed a full, active and fruitful life and will be sadly missed by all those that knew him.”