Our Family Business - 60 years and still trading!! Reg Roach, proprietor of High Street Radio and Photographic, 294 High Street, Croydon, began his retail career in 1959. The family business now is in its 60th year of trading (and still going). Today, Reg & son Paul have survived the encumbrances of recessions, rent increases and, more recently, the onslaught of internet trading. Continuing to trade in their own unique way by offering personal service to many new & existing loyal customers (many of whom have been dealing with them for decades!)
Where it started ...... The year is 1959 & Reg with his wife Pat took over High Street Radio from his employer at their original premises two doors away at number 290 High Street. Securing dealerships for Roberts Radios, Sony, Philips, Grundig, etc they began building their business. Paul, their eldest son, was born in the early sixties and, when old enough, became a valuable addition to the business.
In the late sixties the now prestigious Bang and Olufsen company were looking for outlets in the UK. Always up for a challenge, Reg applied and became one of the country’s first B&O dealers.
The early seventies heralded a royal wedding which stimulated a consumer rush to buy colour TV’s to watch it. The modern electrical age was born, unfortunately sets were less reliable than todays equipment and frequently required attention. Reg and Pat saw another opportunity to expand their business and opened an additional shop at 294 calling it High Street TV Services Ltd. This was a dedicated HIFI & TV service centre, employing 4 engineers.
The late seventies recession and much higher rents took its toll and the shop premises at 290 was closed and amalgamated within 294 under the same banner - High Street Radio.
In the early eighties Reg incorporated photography into the business and became a Leica Specialist Dealer. High Street Radio and Photographic was born. Over the years Reg’s detailed and expert knowledge has become legendary, earning him well deserved respect in this field.
The B&O side expanded rapidly and in the mid eighties an opportunity to open a dedicated “Bang & Olufsen Centre” when the shop next door (292) became vacant. Paul, Pat and 2 members of staff moved into these premises with Reg popping in and out to oversee things. Times were good.
Another recession in the early nineties and policy changes at Bang and Olufsen meant Reg and Paul had to relinquish the B&O concession and concentrate their energies on trading mainly in photographic equipment at 294 only. At this juncture Pat decided to retire from the spotlight of the shop. Reg & Paul continued, now specialising in new Leica equipment and new and second hand high quality photographic equipment of all makes. The only radio dealership they retained was Roberts Radios.
Business was getting tougher with the photographic industry selling digital cameras to EVERY outlet from the largest superstore to the internet, where all customers wanted was the cheapest deal. The industry had changed, Reg and Paul were finding it much more difficult to compete on prices of new equipment and decided to concentrate their efforts on the second hand and the collectors market where people appreciated the specialist knowledge that Reg and Paul had acquired over the years.
Christmas 2001 found Reg (now 70 years young) diagnosed with bowel cancer and heart problems. He was admitted to hospital for several weeks. These were dark days for the family, Pat by his side throughout and Paul keeping the business running as well as visiting everyday. The flowers and get well messages flooded in from friends and customers alike and thankfully after several traumatic months Reg made a full recovery and returned to the business.
During the next few years, the expansion of internet trading meant they had to adapt and revise the products they sold. Policies changes at Leica were also too much for them and so Reg lost his beloved Leica dealership. Reg and Paul now concentrated on selling, pre-owned Leica and other classic second hand film equipment along with new Roberts Radios.
Was it a dream sequence or was it real?...... Tuesday 30th September 2014. Hollywood Superstar Kevin Costner films a scene for his movie 'Criminal', directed by Ariel Vromen at High Street Radio & photographic (how surreal is that!!). 6 weeks earlier Reg and Paul were approached by Location Manager Mark Grimwade of Millennium Films. He had been to several businesses in Croydon looking for suitable shop to turn into a Pawn Shop, but none of them looked the part. He took pictures and sent them to the director, who loved what he saw. A few days later a huge coach containing 32 members of the team, including director Ariel Vromen descended on them. The deal was sealed. Monday 29th September Reg & Paul arrived at the shop to be greeted by their "personal" security man Andy, who said he'd be with them for the next 2 days. The set designers and dressers soon followed and spent the next 7 hours laying out the shop. Tuesday 30th September, 60 plus crew, several huge vans, Director Ariel Vromen and KEVIN COSTNER arrived. The scene took 6 hours to shoot and towards the end of the filming a huge crowd gathered on the other side of the High Street. Kevin acknowledged them with a wave and cameras snapped. He then jumped into his waiting car and sped off. The day was over. WAS IT A DREAM SEQUENCE OR WAS IT REAL? - IT WAS REAL - THEY HAVE PICTURES!
Back to reality ........ Over the next few years Reg suffered a minor stroke, broken hip & heart failure, but he could still be seen behind the counter, doing deals!
Fame at last!....... November 2017, ITV London News decends on the shop to interview the now 86 year old Reg (oh, and Paul) as one of the oldest londoner's still actively running a business. Fame had come to Reg (video can be seen on the homepage).
2019 - 60 YEARS OF REG AT THE HELM - NOW 88 YEARS YOUNG??!! Reg & High Street Radio & Photograhic along with Paul & many of their customers & friends Celebrate 60 years of trading. Now specialising in selling classic film cameras, accessories & huge quantities of film. The resurgence of all things analogue is back! People find the quality of pictures taken with FILM are so much nicer the digital images.
The year is 2020...... March, COVID-19 is rife. The country is locked down. Months go past before finally shops are allowed to trade, with social distancing etc in place.......... Reg (now 89) & Paul are back! SIX decades behind him Reg can STILL be found in his now familiar place behind the counter of this family business. Paul at his side, although he can more often be found on the computer attending to the internet side of the business as they continue to bring that personal touch to buying a classic camera or a reel of film.
How many other family businesses have adapted to the modern world. Had an 'A' list Hollywood Star filming in their shop, been on TV and are still trading after 60 years?
Answers on on a postcard, please.
Kein Costner & Director Ariel Vromen with the family Tuesday 30th September 2014
Watch "The 60 Year Old Camera Shop" by Dave Vickers. A video shot in store as we passed our 60th year of trading!
Watch "Uncle Reg" & Paul shot by a local film maker Rebecca Richards