Shapes Furniture shop will close next month after 46 'brilliant' years in the business

Iconic furniture and antiques shop in Port Edgar Marina to close up shop in February.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 6:37 am

He first opened his shop on Jeffrey Street 46 years ago after being inspired by a Bond Girl’s house and he’s lugged ‘probably over 40,000 bits’ of furniture.

The shop has furnished the likes of the Gleneagles Hotel, Royal Bank of Scotland and the homes of the rich, but as of next month Ally Black will finally be closing the doors of Shapes Furniture after a long and successful career in February this year.

While many will remember her for her breakthrough role as Honey Ryder in Sean Connery’s James Bond debut film Dr No, Mr Black remembers Ursula Andress as the inspiration behind his business.

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Ally Black, 75, is selling up so he can sail off into the sunset on his boat.

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“I was in a band in London at the time and we were invited to play at this posh house, it turned out to be owned by someone in a James Bond film, it was Ursula,” Mr Black recalls, “I was just a wee boy from Dumbiedykes, but I saw the most beautiful things I had never dreamed of - curtains, wall to wall bookcases, dining tables, I had never even imagined it.

“I decided to come back to Edinburgh at 29-years-old and open the furniture business selling things I’d seen a lot, I learned a lot, living down there it opened my eyes.”

The original Jeffrey Street shop was purchased for just £6000 and began with selling a few pieces of furniture and ceramic from art shots before progressing into modern furniture but has moved to a site in Port Edgar Marina, South Queensferry in 2017.

Ally and his sidekick Robert Wallace have worked together for 25 years

“I used to own a few shops of Jeffrey Street,” Mr Black added, “Sell one, buy two - we were doing really well. I used to deliver the furniture, with a sofa on my roof rack and one on the tailgate. I’ve still got the strength, I must have lifted about 40,000 pieces of furniture in my life, we’ve always delivered ourselves but it’s getting heavy for me now.”

Artisan manufacturers from across Europe have stocked Shapes over the years however demand for high quality furniture has dwindled and many have gone bust in the last 10 years with the boom of disposable furniture and cheaper makes such as IKEA.

He added: “Nowadays youngsters want to buy furniture for a reasonable price and that's good and healthy but not many people left who want my kind of furniture.

"I think its got to do with money. People's priorities are holidays, cars, their house, leisure time and there's not the kind of money around that their used to be. it doesn't just apply to furniture, it applies to everything. I think it's the right time for me to get out.

"In the years I've been furnishing houses and board rooms I've met some fantastic people here.

“People have said they’ll miss Shapes, unfortunately most of the artisan manufacturers have gone bust in the last 10 year and sadly it's hard to find people who make this quality of furniture. I’ve got one French supplier and a Portuguese one making nice furniture but there’s not the market for it anymore.

“I sometimes don’t like parting with things, sometimes we put furniture out and it’s like getting rid of a friend, but it’s been fascinating - you learn a lot about people.”

As for his time off, he won’t be sitting around watching daytime telly.

“I’ll do something interesting,” He said, “I have a great interest in vintage cars. I’ve had every car in the game - once I bought three Rolls Royces in one day just because I had a day off.

“It’s been brilliant I’ve done enough work, I’ve been working since I was 10-years-old and my body’s tired and I’ve had enough.

“I bought a great big boat and it’s lying out on the marina and waiting on me to sail away into the sun.

“I’ll have a holiday in the sunshine, get the boat going and enjoy life. I’m lucky to have good health.

“Something always turns up - believe you me, something always turns up for the better.”