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Three generations at John’s of Romford shops keep bikers on the road for 50 years

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:42 16 August 2016

Mark Adlington, Mike Adlinton and Shirley Adlington in front of the John's of Romford shop in London Road, Romford  Credit: Rick Kemp Media Service

Mark Adlington, Mike Adlinton and Shirley Adlington in front of the John's of Romford shop in London Road, Romford Credit: Rick Kemp Media Service

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Surfing the wave of the 1960s mods’ passion for scooters, before carving a niche with commuters and motorbike enthusiasts, John’s of Romford has served generations of bikers.

The Honda showroom in London Road in 1982.The Honda showroom in London Road in 1982.

Now celebrating 50 years in business, the bike dealership’s success story has been driven by the hard work of three generations of a single family.

Trading out of two shops under the Honda and Suzuki franchises, John’s of Romford was initially set up as a bicycle shop.

Hackney-born John Adlington left the East End in the early 1960s to work in bicycle shop Sissley in Rush Green Road, Rush Green.

In 1966, he bought the shop when the owner was looking to sell it and changed its name to John’s of Romford.

The Honda showroom in London Road in 1982The Honda showroom in London Road in 1982

By the end of the sixties, the mod fashion was in full swing and moto scooters had become trendy, prompting John to expand the shop to repair and sell motorbikes.

Despite this growing market, John remained a keen cyclist all his life and was known to go for long bike rides well into his 60s and 70s.

In 1971, the shop signed its first franchise contract with Honda.

Throughout the 1970s, the company bought the franchise for large brands including Yamaha, Suzuki and CZ.

John's of Romford Suzuki demo day earlier this yearJohn's of Romford Suzuki demo day earlier this year

A second shop was opened in London Road, Romford, in 1976 – now a Honda showroom – followed by a Honda centre in Dagenham Heathway, which closed 10 years ago.

Bicycles were still being sold in an extension of the Rush Green shop.

John and his wife Shirley lived in the flat above the shop, where they brought up their three children.

Shirley helped in the shop and hosted big groups of motorbike-lovers, serving tea, coffee and sandwiches.

“The shop used to be a popular meeting spot for young people in the area. Bikers would come with their girlfriends and talk about the rides they were planning over the weekend. It was a lovely atmosphere” remembers John’s son Mike Adlington, 59, who took over the management of the company when his father died in 2003.

Shirley, now 80, remains the oldest Saturday girl in the industry.

As a youngster, Mike used to work in the shops on Saturdays and during school holidays, where he developed a passion for grass track racing.

Describing the shops as “an integral part of my life” he added: “I am very proud to continue what my father started.”

Now managing both shops, Mike believes the family business’ on-going success results from the loyalty of its staff – some having worked at the shop for 30 years.

When motorbikes and scooters started to fall out of fashion, the company targeted east London commuters and taxi drivers in need of manoeuvrable vehicles to learn the roads of London for their Knowledge exams.

“The number of our black cab customers has taken a little bit of a dip in recent years with the growth of private hire vehicles so today our main customers are commuters,” explained online sales director Mark Adlington, John’s grandson.

“But driving a motorbike into London is still cheaper than a train fare and that is a big market for us.

“Motorbikes used to be very much mainstream but we are expecting the trend to come back. The challenge is that this is an evolving market,” he added. As Mark puts it, for the Adlington family “the shops are all our lives” and the latest ideas to move the company forward are often discussed over a family Sunday lunch.

Despite some uncertainties about the economic climate following the Brexit vote in June, Mark explained the business remained financially stable throughout booms and busts and he is confident it will survive another possible recession.

Both shops will hold an all-day anniversary party on September 3. More information here.

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