The KBB Centre in Ipswich is a long-standing, family run business dedicated to serving the surrounding communities. Brothers Roger and Patrick Peck run the business, with more than 60 years’ experience between them supplying kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. Paul Andrews met with Roger to find out more.
The brothers have followed closely in the footsteps of their family tradition.
The journey started back in 1974 when Roger and Patrick’s late father, Alan launched a home improvement business in Ipswich called Star Lines, first from a shop in Foxhall Road, before moving to the town’s Fore Street. Initially the shop sold a variety of home improvement furnishings, before Alan eventually decided to specialise in kitchens and bathrooms.
Star Lines will always be remembered for its catchy advertising jingle, with many locals singing ‘Let’s go down to Star Lines’ to the tune of Mike Oldfield’s ‘In Dulce Jublio.’ People still remember it to this day. Star Lines was ahead of its time back then, being the first Kitchen and Bathroom showroom in Ipswich.
As Roger explains, “For our family, community is everything and we have a business that is all about relationships and trust. The strength of The KBB Centre lays not just in its rich heritage, but also in the fact that our customers recommend us so whole-heartedly.”
Both Roger and Patrick are also passionate about Suffolk and the local community, and are heavily involved in local sports, with The KBB Centre sponsoring several community teams and supporting Grassroots festivals throughout Suffolk. Community is everything to this family firm and Roger is the first to admit that ‘this business is in their blood’ and something that both he and his brother are passionate about.
The journey has not always been easy. In the April of 1979, Star Lines was tragically burned to the ground by a devastating fire caused by arsonists, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. The Peck family were devastated and spent long hours, seven days a week to rebuild their livelihood.
In August 1979, 14 weeks after the fire, Star Lines was reopened into a temporary store, which was actually the company’s warehouse, Richmond House on Waterworks Street, now Star Lane. They created the warehouse into a purpose-built store that they used for 2 years whilst they rebuilt the original store in Fore Street.
In 1981 Star Lines re-opened its Fore Street store after a full refurbishment, where Rosabel, Alan’s wife joined the business, along with his cousin Frances, who actually worked with the brothers at KBB as their Bathroom Showroom manager for many years, only retiring a couple of years ago. In 1985 – Star Lines closed its doors for good with Alan Peck going on to work on a self-employed basis.
Both Roger and Patrick worked at Star Lines during their youth, and although they went on to do other things in the industry throughout the years, they joined forces and came back to their roots, establishing KBB in 2003, in a small unit on Elton Road Business Park in Ipswich.
As the company grew in 2005, they moved to Lion Barn Industrial Estate in Needham Market. In 2008 KBB moved to Dales Road, where a disused warehouse unit was turned into a kitchen and bathroom showroom.
The KBB Centre was officially opened in 2009 by Ipswich Town footballer, Fabian Wilnis.
The family has continued to invest in the business over time and in 2011 with the business still growing the brothers refurbished the showroom again and built a 2nd floor in the unit. This made room to not only extend their current Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom displays but include appliances, tiles, flooring and a larger office space.
The KBB Centre is now one of the largest independent kitchen and bathroom retailers, with the store spanning over two floors. The showroom allows customers to see the exciting range of new kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, together with top-of-the-range appliances and innovative furniture and storage solutions.
Roger is full of entrepreneurial spirit and clearly loves this business. “There are plenty of challenges when it comes to running a family business in the current climate but when you love what you do it is somehow easier,” adds Roger. “I love talking to people and helping them to achieve their dreams and it is our customers that get me out of bed every morning,” he continues but it is fair to say that the past couple of years and the impact of the pandemic have left an indelible imprint too.
As Roger continues, “Prior to the pandemic I had not really thought too much about the future of the business but I have a grandson now and am not getting any younger and there is a part of me that needs to think about it. My brother and I started in the business to grow something to provide for our families and now we have to think more broadly as there are other families involved in the business too.”
The past couple of years has enabled the team to focus, reset and now focus on where they are going moving forward. The business is always changing, something that drives the underlying energy within the business and Roger remains optimistic for the future.
“There are plenty of challenges associated with supply chain, manufacturer capacity, skills in our sector and pricing to name a few but we are in a sector that has seen positive growth in the past couple of years with people investing in their homes and gardens so there is a lot to be positive about.”
“As a family firm we do have a next generation. Some of them have found their own path outside the family business and we do advocate working elsewhere to gain experience. It is always a possibility that they may bring this experience back to the business in the future, if that’s what they’d like to do and we can facilitate them in the company.” he continues. “Patrick’s wife Sarah has worked for the company for many years and is now our General Manager and their son, my nephew Thomas, joined the company last year as an apprentice to learn the ropes as a kitchen fitter. He will then have the option to carry on gaining experience in that position and specialising in that role or if he so wishes he can go into different role in the business such as designing or plumbing. Alternatively, he may decide that he wants to take an entirely different path in life. The option is there for them all.”
The core values of this family business are all based around relationships – trust, honesty, integrity and authenticity. Proudly standing as a family firm that delivers great service to customers is evident when taking to Roger. This family are proud of their legacy and the journey to date but remain focused on doing what they do best, supporting and being an integral part of the community in which they operate. They are proud of their Suffolk roots, proud of all that they have achieved to date and proudly give back to the community too.
Their pride in where they work is clear for all to see and this is a great example of a family business that continues to invest over time, focuses on the customer journey and delivers too.
They have come a long way since 1974 when the journey started and are approaching a golden milestone in 2024. We look forward to celebrating with them as the journey continues to unfold.