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Learn about our journey from the shores of Lake Como to Macclesfield.
Our story begins in 1854, with a long journey on foot from the shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy, over the Alps and across central Europe.Our young adventurer, Antonio Arighi, heads for the silk town of Macclesfield in the North West of England, escaping the Civil War that was raging throughout Italy.
On arrival, he sets up shop, making clocks and barometers which he lends out to farmers on sale or return – a canny innovation that proves a real money-spinner and creates a loyal customer base.
The fledgling business quickly takes off and he’s soon joined by brother in law Antonio Bianchi, a master craftsman and cabinetmaker from the same Italian village of Casnate.Together they create Arighi Bianchi, which gains a nationwide reputation and the patronage of Kings. During this period, they manufacture and sell high quality, handmade furniture upholstered in locally sourced silks and materials.Antonio Bianchi sits holding the reins on top of the cart. Antonio Arighi stands beside him in his trademark white apron and hard hat.
As the business expands, the partners decide to move premises and buy an old silk mill in the centre of Macclesfield on what is now called the Silk Road. The building is more practical, with more space and gives the family the chance to expand in a prime location. Waters Green 1900
Determined to inspire and innovate, the partners commission a local builder, George Roylance, to renovate the mill and construct a new four-storey building to complement the existing structure. Inspired by Joseph Paxton’s famous Crystal Palace built for the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, Roylance designs an iconic façade featuring large Italianate plate glass windows.
After years of depending on horse drawn carriages to deliver their goods, Arighi Bianchi is the first store in Macclesfield to use a motorised vehicle, a huge innovation.
This poignant photograph shows the vehicle’s very first driver, Edward Connolly, who sadly died at the Battle of the Somme in 1915.Arighi Bianchi later dedicated a tree in England’s Centenary Wood as a tribute to Edward.
When war broke out in August 1914 many family members and staff volunteered to join the fight on the front line. A number of our horses were also sent to join the war effort.
Top (L-R) - John Bianchi, Antonio Bianchi, Francis Arighi Bottom (L-R) - Enrico Bianchi, Sydney Bianchi, Alphonso Bianchi
Between the wars, Antonio Bianchi’s eldest son, Enrico, sees an opportunity and begins to import beautiful, unusual fabrics. Customers are excited to see new tapestries, damasks, velvet and lace from all over Europe.
The wholesale fabric division does so well it threatens to swamp the furniture side of the business, but Enrico’s youngest brother, John Ernest, manages to keep things afloat.During this time, the Arighi family move back to Lake Como in Italy to strengthen the Arighi Bianchi name abroad.
During World War 2 Arighi Bianchi were commissioned by the Ministry of Defence to manufacture and produce parachutes for the RAF and The Airborne Division.
In 1955 Antonio Bianchi’s grandchildren Anthony and Paul join the family business. Their father John Ernest (or ‘Mr John’ as he’s known) becomes chairman of the company. They secure investment and begin a programme of refurbishment, to modernise the store. Although the post-war years have been difficult, things start to look up again.Mr Paul Bianchi and Anthony Bianchi
In 1970, the store is threatened with a compulsory purchase order to make way for the new North-South Macclesfield ring road. Anthony and Paul Bianchi fiercely defend their right to stay put and are joined by some prestigious supporters, including the soon to be Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, The Architectural Review and the Victorian Society, as well as hundreds of local people who sign a petition. The protest is successful and Arighi Bianchi receives the official recognition it deserves, becoming a Grade II* listed building.
While delivering furniture to the House of Commons, one of our distinctive blue and gold vans was picked up by the BBC cameras and shown on their 6 o'clock and 9 o' clock news.
Over the past 167 years we are proud to offer both a national and international delivery service to our customers and it was great that our van was spotted on one of our regular trips to capital.
Following a visit to Chicago in the US, Mr Paul returns to Macclesfield intent on opening a new eatery at Arighi Bianchi.Inspired by the café at Marshall Field’s department store, he opens Café Bar Arighi, selling freshly made cakes and refreshments. The café is celebrating 30 years in 2018, and now serves throughout the day, including Sunday lunch with wine and spirits.
To commemorate our 150th anniversary, Arighi Bianchi commissions local brewery, Storm, to create an artisan beer, AB150. This easy drinking session ale is available to buy in cask. They also created an AB160 to celebrate our 160th birthday in 2014.
Arighi Bianchi is always looking for new fund-raising opportunities. Launched in September 2007, one of our 7.5 tonne vehicles is painted pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness: over three months, the newly painted van is used for deliveries and with every delivery we donate £5 to the charity. This photo shows our van in Monte Carlo making a VIP trip! We also host a Gala Ball at the store with special guest, Coronation Street star Jenny McAlpine.With a huge effort by staff and customers, we raise over £20,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness.
In 2014 we celebrated our 160th Anniversary. Arighi Bianchi is now the longest-running family-owned furniture business in the UK. (L-R) Nick Bianchi and Mr Paul Bianchi (who is now retired)
Today the immediate descendants of Antonio Bianchi hold the reins at the store. This means that the principles, ethics and standards first established by both Antonio Bianchi and Antonio Arighi, in the mid-nineteenth century are still adhered to today. (L-R) Charlie Bianchi, John Bianchi, Richard Bianchi
In 2021 the business welcomed two fifth-generation members of the Bianchi family to its team. Lucy Mather joins as our Head of Communications and Charlie Bianchi joins our sales team. In over 160 years in business, we believe there is one thing that holds the key to our success. The family has always stayed firm and the firm has always stayed family. (L-R) - Sarah Bianchi, Lucy Mather
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