Walking stick specialist Classic Canes is delighted to celebrate its 35th birthday in September 2017. Founded in 1982 at the proverbial kitchen table, Classic Canes is now an internationally renowned family business, known for the quality and style of its products. A range of more than 700 walking sticks, seat sticks and umbrellas is supplied to retailers in 40 countries.
Classic Canes was created when Ben and Diana Porter discovered that the woodland surrounding their house, a former hunting lodge in Somerset, was naturally growing suitable raw material for country walking sticks. They sold the wood they cut to the Coopers walking stick factory in Surrey and bought back finished sticks to offer to local retailers such as tobacconists, leather goods and gift shops. Invoices were written by hand and deliveries were made from the back of Diana?s car in between school runs.
The young company started exhibiting at trade fairs in the late 1980s, which broadened the customer base to the rest of the country and abroad. The variety of sticks offered expanded too, with Classic Canes introducing brightly coloured and patterned canes in ladies? sizes to the UK market. Previously, women had to make do with a man?s stick, cut down to size. When the Coopers factory closed, other sources of production had to be found. In the late 1990s, the Porters? son Johnny established the Classic Canes workshop to make small production runs of rustic walking sticks.
In 2003 the Porters? daughter, Charlotte Gillan, joined the family firm, having previously worked in the luxury goods industry. She became managing partner (later managing director) in 2011. The number of employees also gradually increased and today ten people work at Classic Canes.
The company continues to grow native British hardwoods such as ash, hazel and blackthorn, which are made into walking sticks in the Somerset workshop. Other items are designed and produced in association with fine specialist factories around the world. New models are launched twice a year to keep pace with changing fashions. The latest new collection is a range of walking sticks licenced by the National Gallery in London and featuring artwork based on paintings by van Gogh, Stubbs and Bosschaert the Elder.
Managing director Charlotte Gillan, commented: ?It seems a long time since my parents started the business. Then we had walking sticks stored in the kitchen and we would label and package them at the kitchen table. Sometimes the stock overflowed into our bedrooms. The company has grown steadily since then, always insisting on top quality products and offering a dependable, knowledgeable service to our customers. We have many customers who have been with us for several decades and I hope that many who are stockists now will still be buying from Classic Canes in another 35 years? time.?