House of Reeves still going strong thanks to community spirit
TODAY (Wednesday), exactly one year on from the riots, House of Reeves will open as if it were any other day – albeit with an inspiring new makeover.
In that seemingly small act, the historic furniture store will sum up the spirit of the hundreds of businesses affected by the events of that night, who rebuilt and carried on as normal in the face of extreme adversity.
The last 12 months have been anything but ordinary for the Reeves family, whose tenacity has won them worldwide admiration, but their experiences have left them remarkably unmoved.
Trevor Reeves said: "I haven't changed but I think it has given us all a more rounded view of things.
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"In the past we were quite insular but now we are much more involved with the community.
"We're still the same Reeves family but it's made us appreciate what we've got and what's around us."
House of Reeves’ flagship store was destroyed by fire during last summer's riots.
Images of the 144-year-old building ablaze became, for many, the iconic image of the disorder which began in London and spread to most of the major cities in the country.
Gordon Thompson, who started the fire by igniting a sofa in a window display, was sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison in April.
Trevor said: "If I had known what I know now then I would have gone round the corner and pulled that burning sofa out before the whole store came down.
"I probably would have had my head beaten in, yet I don't think I would have been able to stop myself.
"But from my position on the flyover I had no idea how bad it was on the other side of the store.
"By the time I saw what was really happening on CCTV the fire had already started and it was too late."
It hasn’t all been business as usual for the Reeves family this week.
Its remaining store was transformed into a beacon of hope for the future with help from 4,000 young people.
As part of the vinspired (correct) Reverse the Riots campaign young people across the country were asked to send a picture and a positive message to the organisation’s website.
These have now been collated, printed and laminated and on Monday 4,000 were attached to the outside of the Reeves family’s remaining store at Reeves Corner, Croydon.
Trevor said: “We have tried to engage with young people since the riots and pushing positive things forward is something we have been very keen to get involved with.
“This campaign helps show a positive image of youngsters rather than the negative side everyone saw on the night of the riots.”
He added: “The riots happened very visibly here and vinspired asked if they could use our building as a site to put out a message against the riots.”
Since the store was torn down, the family's focus has been on making its remaining site a success.
Trevor said: "With all the changes we had to make it was like starting a business again.
"We've lost 60 per cent of our space but, with a lot of hard work, we're still here and we are viable.
"The swell of support and community spirit has been incredibly strong.
"I think we are now in a position where we can realistically take advantage of all the redevelopment which is planned in Croydon over the next few years."
On Wednesday the latest phase in the regeneration of the business arrived when a new furniture showroom was opened on the first floor of the remaining premises.
Money donated to the family after the riots - around £8,000 - has been used to convert a storeroom to produce more selling space.
The new showroom will also contained images of the old store and from the night of the riots.
Mr Reeves said: “After the pictures of the burning shop were shown on television we received donations from people from all over the world.
“The money was sent to help us get the business back on its feet and until now we have kept in a trust.
“We feel this is a worthwhile way of using money from people who donated it to us because they wanted to help the company.”
While his family's ordeal has received a huge amount of publicity, Trevor believes the real victims are those who lost their homes.
He said: "If we were lucky in any way it was that we didn't lose personal possessions.
"To have lost things of personal value like wedding photos or pictures of your children – that must have been awful."