In conversation with Nick Bianchi of Arighi Bianchi
PUBLISHED: 08:07 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:36 23 October 2020
Nick Bianchi tells the story of Macclesfield’s iconic Arighi Bianchi business
In a new series of conversations, Kalini Kent talks to Nick Bianchi, one of the family of directors running Cheshire’s Arighi Bianchi furniture and interiors business
What brought your ancestors to Macclesfield?
In 1854, Italy was in a brutal civil war and Antonio Arighi, a skilled cabinetmaker, lived in a silk town on the shores of Lake Como. He wished to flee to a fellow silk town, so Macclesfield, the largest producer of finished silk in the world with 71 silk mills, was a natural choice. Arighi was joined by fellow Italian Antonio Bianchi 12 years later, who married into the Arighi family. We Italians like to keep things ‘dentro la famiglia’ (within the family).
The company passed to Enrico and John and subsequently to my father Paul and his brother Tony. I am one of the directors, along with brother Rob, sister Sarah, cousins Richard and John, all overseen by my father, the chairman.
What was the inspiration for the impressive building?
Starting from a terraced house in Sutton, life was very tough, with cabinets strewn over the drive and a horse and cart taking the furniture up and down the hills. Arighi and Bianchi were both inspired by The Great Exhibition in 1851 and seeing Paxton’s Crystal Palace. This gave them the vision to build ‘an Emporium to suit all classes’. The building is synonymous with our brand, which is why we have always hesitated in expanding: our brand would not sit well on a retail park. The Café Bar, a big part of the store dynamic, was inspired following a visit by dad to Chicago in 1987.
What makes Arighi Bianchi so special?
The staff are the most important part of any business, and we are very proud to have so many who have been with us for 20 to 30 years. Our shared values, focusing on customer service, are what cements us. A customer who came from Arizona said, ‘this store has soul’.
What challenges have you faced?
One was the proposal in 1970 to pull down our beautiful Victorian building, one of the finest examples of iron and glass architecture in the world, to build a new road. It was a source of huge pride to my grandmother when author, poet laureate, broadcaster Sir John Betjeman alighted the train at Macclesfield and was instrumental in saving the building.
What impact has Covid had?
Luckily we were able to transfer our business online and now the store is open again. Personally, not realising it at the time, I was on a hamster wheel, juggling a lot, not being at home as much as I wanted. I have a tendency to fill my calendar, but in doing that you are not being the best version of yourself, so I say ‘No’ to more things, love to be at home more, and try to de-tech after work, going on airplane mode.
What advice do you have for other businesses?
Surround yourself with great people, be flexible, trusting them and giving responsibility and they will thrive. You need youth in the business, their energy and ideas, but also long-established members that cement the philosophy. Employ individuals who delight and serve the customer and people with the same values who care.
Kalini Kent is a communication consultant and public speaker, based in Bollington. You can watch her interview with Nick Bianchi at the Youtube channel Conversations with Kalini