Dodgson’s of Dorchester – An Aladdin’s Cave for Everything DIY
Dodgson’s of Dorchester is a hardware store that has been a longstanding feature of South Street. Renowned for stocking all manner of DIY supplies no matter how obscure. We catch up with business owner Glenn House to find out how his traditional business continues to thrive and adapt after first opening more than half a century ago.
What is the history behind your business, and what made you want to open up a shop here in Dorchester?
Dodgsons of Dorchester is a traditional DIY shop in the heart of the county town of Dorchester.
The business was opened in 1961 by Tony Dodgson and his father. Tony eventually bought the business from his father, and also opened a shop in Weymouth, however, this closed in 2002. I started working for Tony in 1980; I then purchased the business from Tony in 2005. Tony was a local lad, going to school at Hardye’s, so it made sense to open up a shop in Dorchester. I am happy that the shop is established in Dorchester as it is a thriving market town, full of independent businesses, which gives a sense of character to the area.
Describe your business in 3 words?
Friendly, helpful, trusted.
Tell us a bit more about your shop. What can lovers of your products find there?
We are situated at the lower end of South Street. Dodgsons of Dorchester is often described as ‘Arkwright’s’ or an Aladdin’s cave. One of our mottos is if we haven’t got it in stock (unlikely) we can normally source it, within a few days. We sell thousands of different products from: light bulbs; washing up bowls; ladders; power tools and hand tools; paint; candles (five); to name just a few of the many items available. If you want a small (or large) piece of wood cut, we offer a cut to size service, and we can even deliver free of charge in the local area.
What qualities do you look for when ordering in new stock for the store?
We have good relationships with our suppliers, so we are always looking for the most competitive prices, and often, you will find, we are cheaper than the big multiples on the high street. We will always avoid cheap, low quality tools, as they don’t last, so it’s false economy, and it would also give us a bad reputation, so we are very careful with what we buy.
Do you have a loyal customer base?
Yes. Most of our customers have been coming into Dodgson’s of Dorchester for years, and we tend to know them by their names. We believe that people come to us for good advice, our attention to detail, and the help we give to them. Not many shops have a well used chair for people to rest upon while we attend to their every need. It’s the personal approach that tends to make the difference. We love a challenge, and like to think that if we haven’t got an item in stock (it doesn’t happen very often), and we can’t get it, that we know someone in town that can supply it. I believe that this approach is reciprocated throughout the town with other businesses.
Aside from running your business, what are some personal hobbies or local activities that you enjoy?
I enjoy spending time with my wife, taking my rescue dog on long walks, and I am an enthusiastic gardener. My favourite spectator sport would have to be speedway, which stems back to my father taking me to Poole speedway when I was young. As I had my own children (two girls), they started to get interested in watching the sport, so it is a treat when we can all go to Poole and cheer on our ‘local’ team.
Since opening what items have been the most popular with your customers?
When the shop first started, the Dodgson’s sold no end of wallpaper, but people’s tastes change, and wallpaper doesn’t feature these days for us. People’s requirements have definitely changed through the years, and we are selling much more household goods than ever before. We tend to keep up with what people need, selling essential items, rather than luxury goods. The threat of the EU ‘banning’ light bulbs meant that we sold thousands of the traditional GLS light bulbs, before stocks became exhausted. The advent of LED light bulbs is becoming more popular, which is good for the environment because they use so little energy compared to the old style.
If you were a customer in your own shop, what would you buy?
Biodegradable food bags are a necessity in our house, as well as Hob Brite, to keep the cooker sparkling clean.
Any exciting plans for the future?
This will be our second year of opening seven days a week and it is surprising at just how many people are around on a Sunday. This is due to start in May, and will run until the end of the year. With the assistance of our suppliers, we will be running monthly promotions. I am also getting to grips with social media so they can be used to our advantage. Please check out our Twitter feed @DodgsonsDiy and Facebook page Dodgson’s of Dorchester Ltd.
What advice would you give to someone who is dreaming of opening his or her own small business in Dorchester?
Although I ‘inherited’ the business from Tony Dodgson, I would encourage anyone thinking of opening a business in Dorchester to go for it. The town is ‘buzzing’, good things are happening, and there is a definite feel good factor among business owners. Dodgson’s of Dorchester are supported by the Dorchester BID, as are most businesses in the town, who are always on hand for advice and a listening ear. Also, I would say hurry up and join us as empty shops are filling up fast.
Find out more about Dodgson’s of Dorchester.