Bromley's oldest store EW Payne plans modernisation with heritage in mind
PUBLISHED: 10:25 13 December 2012
Handed down through the family, Bromley's oldest store EW Payne is now in the hands of its fourth generation.
Opened in 1910 by Ernest Payne, the son of a builder, the jewellery business has survived two world wars and remains a landmark for many borough residents.
But, like any 102-year-old, the store is feeling the effects of its age and is about to undergo a regeneration that business development manager Roger Dyer believes will be a balancing act.
“The majority of the quality brands that make things such as watches don’t want to be sold in a traditional store like ours.
“They want a modern development and if we want the big brands, we need to modernise – but without losing the tradition.
“Nothing has really changed since we’ve been here. Customers are concerned about losing the heritage and I wouldn’t say it’s going to be easy, but we want to reach a balance.”
EW Payne began trading in Penge back in 1899. These days, though the legacy of the name lives on through the Bromley store, the family that own it no longer bears the Payne name.
Roger, 53, of Langley Park, is the great-grandson of founder Ernest.
He explains that the store used to be one of the leading jewellers in the country.
“It was a clockmakers and jewellers when it first opened. It was one of the country’s best and people used to travel from all over to see Payne’s.”
Though the nationwide prestige may have faded, the business is still dear to the heart of customers who, like the owners, introduce their family to the store.
“A lot of people come in say they were brought in by their mother or their grandmother to buy their 21st-birthday present, or something as treasured,” said Roger.
“We feel very much that people view us as their store and there is a lot of awareness in Bromley of the history and prominence.”
EW Payne’s reputation has led to royal honours in past decades – managing director Alistair Collier handed the Queen a carriage clock on her visit last year.
His father, Jim, presented Prince Charles with a commemorative goblet when the heir to the throne came to open the Churchill Theatre in 1977.
Roger added: “Our royal past is definitely something we’re all very proud of and we were given the opportunity to present a clock to the Queen because of our long history.
“We are very much a family business and Alistair took his second cousin, Alice, who was only eight, along to meet the Queen.”
Though a £26,000 necklace dazzles shoppers walking by, it is the store’s hidden upstairs that is perhaps its most distinctive feature.
Thanks to the first part of the modernisation scheme, a private consultancy area is joined by a champagne bar that houses a spectacular chandelier designed by Baccarat.
“It’s a bit of a mystery why Ernest opened the business,” said Roger. “But we have kept it true to its roots and the upstairs of the store is absolutely beautiful.
“Modernising the store will not mean losing touch with the past, but upstairs is a sign of things to come.
“As the oldest business in Bromley, we have had to adapt and this is just another part of that.”