The Times speaks to two businesses – one celebrating its 40th year, the other opening last weekend – about why they jumped at the chance to work in a place with such character
Peter Jenner is a specialist in fine handmade jewellery and a true craftsman who works on beautiful designs using traditional skills and an open mind
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED ON THE PANTILES?
I’ve been here 36 years now. I started out in the jewellery trade 40 years ago, and was on Mount Pleasant for a few years before coming down here. The Cabin, as it’s known, became vacant when I left art college in 1971 and I wrote to the estate agents Ibbett Mosely enquiring about it. I heard back from them nine years later! They said: “If you’re still interested…”
HOW DI D YOU FIRST GET INTO THE TRADE?
I started creating jewellery at art college in 1968, at Plymouth, then at Medway. I was taught by highly skilled, proper draughtsmen.
My training covered everything: Casting, setting, gemology. There weren’t many gemologists in the town then – David Reich, Michael Payne and myself. I was the only person making jewellery.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF MAKING YOUR OWN DESIGNS?
Almost all of my work is commissioned and I use mostly gold and platinum, and because I do my own work I can be highly competitive in terms of pricing. It takes the same amount of time to work in silver, so it’s more economical for the customer. And I find it constantly stimulating. There are always new ways of doing things, and fashion changes. I’m 68 and I still enjoy it hugely.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR PRODUCTS?
Most of our revenue comes from engagement, wedding and eternity rings. I find that I’m now doing a second generation of wedding rings. We also do a lot of remodelling, of inherited pieces that have been gathering dust in a drawer. We turn it into something completely new.
ARE MOST OF YOUR CUSTOMERS LOCAL, OR DO THEY COME FROM FURTHER AFIELD TOO?
Our local customers often come back to us when they’ve moved away, or they recommend us. But we do pick up custom off the internet too. We had an Australian couple who were staying at Heathrow for 24 hours, and they came down and saw us. It was amazing. They were celebrating their ruby wedding anniversary, and we arranged an eternity ring by email.
YOU CREATE A LOT OF YOUR OWN JEWELLERY. BUT HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR OTHER SUPPLIERS?
There are some fantastic designers out there and every year we try to find new ones, like local designers Latham & Neve in Hawkhurst. And now we have Drakenberg Sjolin from Sweden, who are new to the UK and producing very clean designs. These are small-scale designers, people won’t have seen them elsewhere. And they are passionate about what they do, they have a story behind them.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK IN THE SHOP?
It’s very much a family business, with me, my wife Jean and our son Guy, who has been working here for eight years.
HOW DO YOU LIKE WORKING IN THE PANTILES?
It has always been a pleasure. In the last 100 years there have only been two firms working in this shop underneath the famous old Musick Gallery – Beecher Brothers the cobblers and myself. In the old days it was more tranquil, there were no chairs or A-boards and everything was more controlled. It’s important to have shops of quality and diversity, to give the area its character – not least because for a third of the year it’s not so pleasant and sunny!
Chegworth Valley is a local supplier of 70 lines of farm produce who have just opened their first shop outside London to coincide with The Pantiles Food Festival
HOW LONG HAS THE FARM BUSINESS BEEN RUNNING, AND WHERE ARE YOUR OTHER STORES?
The farm was established in 1983 by the Deme family near Harrietsham in the heart of the Kent countryside. Today two generations look after the farm and our shops. We have two other stores, both in London, in Borough Market and Notting Hill.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT?
Having run newsagents in London, the family wanted a different way of life. They planted fruit trees and bushes on the former dairy farm for the Leeds Castle estate, and the demand from farmers markets led to the production of Chegworth Valley juices.
WHAT SORT OF CLIENTELE ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
The shop will offer a wide range of organic local and regional products, including our own produce and juices plus dairy, meat, wholefoods, snacks and much more. It will appeal to everyone who enjoys food and drink!
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR PRODUCTS?
Our own range of juices always sell well. The farm’s 70 lines of produce include apples, pears and cherries, raspberries and strawberries as well as salad leaves, tomatoes and many other vegetables, all of which are delivered daily.
IS IT AN ADVANTAGE TO SUPPLY YOUR OWN PRODUCE?
Yes, we are able to offer fruit and vegetables which are as fresh as they can be. We pick on the farm in the afternoon and deliver the following morning. This also means that the shop is truly seasonal and customers will see produce changing with the seasons.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO SET UP SHOP IN THE PANTILES?
The opportunity to set up here was one we jumped at. The area has a great feel and we are excited to be joining so many restaurants, pubs and shops, whilst also bringing something a little different with us.