We recently posted an item about HigherGround – the flooring supplier on the corner of Portesbery Road and Knoll Road. Since then, Gerard McSharry – the owner – and his brother, Richard, have put some comments on this blog. As not everyone will have seen these, we’re reproducing them here, along with the photo of the damaged sign that started the correspondence.
“Hello to The Camberley Eye!
Thank you for taking interest in my business, which has been here since 1996, with me at its helm.
Sadly our sign was damaged by a delivery vehicle from one of our suppliers. It was parked on the forecourt to avoid blocking up the road and in doing so reversed into the letters. We will be having a new updated sign very soon, (courtesy of aforementioned company).
We always try to minimise disruption to the flow of traffic, and ask drivers to be courteous how they park to avoid congesting the road. Sometimes lorry drivers ask to take their taco breaks outside our premises and we ask them to park further up Portesbery Road, or a side road where they will cause less disruption.
With regards the use of the building, its age and future I can provide the following information:
Fixed to the rear of the building hangs an iron plaque dated 1899. We believe the building was originally a grain store, from where the building derives its name. It has been home to numerous companies over the years, including an enclosed market in the 1970’s which utilised all four units on the site. I can remember roaming around unit 2 with my mother who was shopping for a dining room table circa 1977 or 78. Little did I know one day I would be the person on the other end of the deal.
Kimberley Carpets moved from Ash Vale to The Granary in March 1996. We took over the lease for unit 3 from a friend who operated a sofa/furniture company for a few years. Five or so years later we took on unit 1 when the photographer moved out.
After struggling through many cold winters, two summer flash floods, and many ups and downs, something had to change; it was time for a rethink. A brand new look, refurbished showroom, change of name,and new signs (pre-damage); Higherground was born January 2011. Business steadily improved and we are lucky to count clients such as Brent Hoberman (lastminute founder), A-list golfers, Sheiks, local businesses, and many local residents as satisfied customers. When unit 2 became available in June last year it only seemed right to complete the circle.
We don’t like to make a fuss or blow our own trumpet, so please forgive us just this once. Many in our industry consider Higherground as the best flooring showroom in the south of England, probably the whole country. Now I can’t validate that, and yes, it is only a flooring showroom, however it is something of which Camberley can be proud.
With increased business we have funneled more finance in the direction of good quality marketing which has attracted customers from further afield, including Reading, Oxford, Haslemere, Farnham and central London. It is worth noting that these people had no other interest to come and visit Camberley other than to shop at Higherground. A vibrant town has at its heart a good healthy mix of independent shops, restaurants, and desirable national chains. The council understands this, and I support their approach to encourage local companies to thrive. The greater the number of strong independent retailers, the more will be encouraged to start up.
Having been born in Frimley Park Hospital, and raised locally on the Old Dean Estate for the fist 20 or so years of my life I care very deeply about Camberley, and the local area. I attended school at St Gregory’s on the A30, and St Tarcissus on Knoll Road, a stones throw from where I sit now. Camberley is a great area to live and work, with a good sense of community, and a decent standard of living. I find myself very fortunate that the local council helped my parents settle here 45 years ago. Some 20 years on from leaving my childhood home it gives me great pleasure whenever I see an old neighbour in store. It is heart warming to hear about people from my formative years, what has become of this neighbour, or whatshisname from Number 4. It gives a sense of belonging.
So what for the future of The Granary. No doubt one day it will be no longer, just a memory, like my old school, the cinema, or so many other businesses that have come and gone over the past 100 odd years. But for now, I am putting my heart and soul into breathing new life into it, and trying my best to improve the town that means so much to me. My hope is that when the time comes for the developers to move in, Higherground will be reborn, to a new home here in Camberley.
[Gerard did provide some further information about his business. You can read it here: http://www.marketmall.co.uk/blog-article/i-m-floored]
“I live in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, which used to be called ‘The Pearl of the Orient’. Sadly the massive development that has taken place over the past 30 years has transformed the city into a homogeneous mess, where 90% of the streets look identical and where many of the building are so ugly you have to assume they were built with the foreknowledge that they would later be pulled down.
Thankfully the central city area with many famous French Colonial and Victorian buildings has been preserved, and there is now considerable effort to improve the city center and remove the eyesores that were hastily and haphazardly erected during the boom times.
Speaking as Gerard’s brother I can testify to the incredible heartache he has gone through over two decades to keep his business afloat (and I’m not referring to the two floods he mentioned!). Having in the past run two of my own businesses in the UK, I know only too well how hard hard it is survive, as both of mine failed.
Gerard has managed to build an incredible business with Higherground Flooring and he modestly failed to mention that one of his past customers was Eton School and another was HRH Prince Edward when the nursery at Bagshot Park needed re-flooring for his young son James, the Viscount Severn (who like Gerard and myself was also born in Frimley Park Hospital – some small claim to fame, lol!).
Part of the charm and draw of Higherground is the fact that it is an independent store, but also of significance is its very location in a Victorian building more than 100 years old, tired though it may be – but is that not the nature of old things? The Railway came to Camberley in 1878 and this building was built soon after. Walking inside this building now, however, is a bit like walking through that wardrobe in a certain famous English novel – you cannot believe that such an old and tired looking exterior hides such a modern, fresh and incredibly unique place.
I remember the many past businesses that The Granary used to house, some mentioned by Gerard, but most especially the stall-based trading market that seemed to belong more in the East End of London (yes I have lived there) than a Surrey greenbelt town. That was not something to be proud of, it was an eyesore! It seems many people have tried to turn this old Victorian Granary into a successful business venture since it ceased its original purpose – and all of them failed.
Unlike Gerard, I left Camberley 30 years ago at age 16, although I have returned often since that is where my roots are – often times even helping Gerard with his business. Yes, I am Gerard’s brother, so I am biased, but after having lived and worked in more than 20 different towns and cities across 8 countries throughout my life, I can confidently claim that Gerard has built something that Camberley should be very proud of indeed. Immensely proud of in fact, just as I am. It is not just any old shop. It’s a one of a kind … a pearl perhaps?.