Customers keep returning for old fashioned service at the Hobby Shop, Elm Park’s oldest store

Ron and Martin Sampson

Ron and Martin Sampson - Credit: Archant

Nothing beats good old fashion customer service – and The Hobby Shop in Elm Park is proof of it.

The hobby shop in Elm Park

The hobby shop in Elm Park - Credit: Archant

The DIY store has been in the same premises in Elm Park Avenue since 1959 and more than 50 years on it’s still going strong.

Martin Sampson with a collection of Airfix model planes

Martin Sampson with a collection of Airfix model planes - Credit: Archant

It is the oldest shop in Elm Park and believed to be the last of its kind in Havering.

Inside the shop in Elm Park

Inside the shop in Elm Park - Credit: Archant

The shop has had just three owners, but one thing that they all have in common is the belief in “a little bit of civility”.

Martin Sampson outside the hobby shop

Martin Sampson outside the hobby shop - Credit: Archant

Former owner, Ron Sampson, said: “I always say that you don’t know who you are serving so you should show everyone respect and they like it so they will come back.

From left: Reece Sampson, Jeff Smith, Ron and Martin Sampson

From left: Reece Sampson, Jeff Smith, Ron and Martin Sampson - Credit: Archant


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“It is all about civility and I think it costs nothing.”

Ron, now 85, started working for the shop’s first owner Stan Tring in 1963 and the most important lesson he learned was customer service.

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“You had to be on the ball all the time”, he said. “I was always told to call people Mr or Mrs and to say good afternoon and morning and ‘may I help you?’. He always said that civility costs nothing, what does it cost to be pleasant to people?”

He added: “You could have someone that walked in wearing a suit that would only spend 1p and you would have someone else who might not have been the best dressed but would spend a fortune.”

Just six weeks after taking up a Saturday job at the store, Ron, was offered the role of manager.

“I had been working in engineering for 21 years, but they weren’t offering any overtime.

“I had three young children and I needed to earn some extra money, but I enjoyed it because I have always enjoyed meeting people.”

When Mr Tring announced that he was retiring in 1982, Ron jumped at the chance to take over the business.

He said: “I told my wife and she said it was a good opportunity for us.

I took a chance and I think it paid off, I haven’t made a fortune, but I am comfortable, but we wouldn’t sell anyone anything if we didn’t think it was good.”

It wasn’t long before it became a family affair.

Ron’s wife, Joyce gave up her job at St George’s Hospital to do the books for the shop and the couple’s son, Martin also came in to help out on Saturdays.

In 1995, Martin took over the business. Remarkably, the store still offers the exact same services as the first day it opened in 1957.

Most importantly it has managed to see off competition from other big DIY retailers.

Not even the recession has put a dent in their takings.

Martin said: “We are still here and like everybody we are struggling, but because of the recession people can’t afford to employ people to do work for them so they come here and we help them to do it themselves.

“We offer a traditional service and people like that.”

Ron added: “Martin has learned everything he could about old fashioned customer service from me and I learned all I could from my governor.”

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