The subtitle of this memoir: ‘clogs to clogs in three generations – well, almost’ – is a typically frank recognition by the author that, while things didn’t work out as he’d hoped, they could have been much worse.
Brian Greenwood is a member of the family that once owned the leading menswear chain of that name.
He was born into middle-class affluence and through hard work and an eye for a good deal, turned that into a life of ducal splendour.
Brian is refreshingly candid about the business failures and mistakes, as well as the tragedy that struck his personal life.
He’s enthusiastic about his experiences, wittily and fondly recalling characters and incidents down the years. His relish for life shines through.
His is a story with strong local connections, from relatively humble beginnings in Heaton, Bradford, to comfortable retirement on a converted farm with a private golf course near Harrogate.
Brian has had a lifelong connection with Woodhouse Grove School at Apperley Bridge where he was educated. He became a governor and only recently retired as chairman after more than 40 years. The post of president was created so he could remain involved.
He returned from post-war national service and rejoined the family business, then based in Drewton Street, Bradford, prior to its move to a purpose-built HQ in Guiseley.
It was a period of expansion that turned Greenwood’s into the UK’s largest privately-owned menswear chain.
Apart from business deals good and bad, Brian also writes movingly about the devastation of losing not one, but two young twins, a baby daughter shortly after birth in 1953 and a handicapped son three years later.
In a long life Brian has rubbed shoulders with the rich and influential. Former Cabinet minister Lord Norman Tebbit, once a guest on Mr Greenwood’s shooting estate, writes in the foreword: “The story has in it the stuff of a TV saga … its strength is the strength of character of a hard-working Yorkshire family through good years and bad alike.”
Shop! ranges from living the life of Riley with a stately home in Lancashire and an estate in Scotland, where he pursued his love of field sports, to seeing his business empire unravel.
He describes learning the art of salesmanship; post-war black market trading and building up a thriving business which saw him controlling 300 shops, a clothing factory and a property development business.
Brian Greenwood’s life could make a novel. In fact, he’s now writing three thrillers based on his experiences.