If ever there was a business in need of a fixer, the Alf Onnie curtain shop in east London was it. There was the horrendously jumbled store – so cluttered that only the rats that infested the premises seemed to know their way round. And then there were the three Freedman brothers who ran the shop their grandfather, Alf, had founded in 1920. Kevin, Lawrence and Jeremy disagreed strongly about where things were going wrong — if there was a profit to be made from squabbling they would be in the FTSE 100 by now.
Alex Polizzi, a businesswoman from the Forte dynasty, knew what was to be done. They needed to concentrate on their core curtain business, smarten up and get rid of all the clutter in the shop. “There’s so much schmatter everywhere,” said Polizzi, lapsing into the vernacular.
But the boys, who argued incessantly to a klezmer backing track (just in case you didn’t realise they were Jewish), seemed unable to see that amid their bickering the curtain was coming down on their, er, curtain business.
But Polizzi is an assertive woman and she dragged them off to see branding experts and shop design people while she herself attempted to shake some sense into the brothers. Even Jeremy, the one she thought had been her ally in redesigning the shop, turned out to be obsessed with pelmets, swags and tails, and oblivious to modern trends.
But there was, to Polizzi’s and my surprise, a happy ending. The boys allowed the shop to be refitted, and on Polizzi’s advice, Jeremy went out and obtained some big made-to-measure contracts. And just when it looked like it was all over, the business literally started to make a net profit. The brothers were so amazed they almost stopped arguing.