Perth is renowned for its fantastic independent retailers. It’s what makes our wee city unique and it’s something we should all celebrate, cherish and most definitely not take for granted. You only have to take a walk through the streets of Perth to find lots of great shops that have been run by different generations and have been supported by our local community throughout the years.
My family’s business, WTG Henderson Jewellers, came to Perth from London in 1938 and was established by my great grandad. Since then, my grandad, my dad and now my big brother, Matt, have all decided to carry on the traditions and work in the shop. From a young age, I can remember spending hours in the shop running around and generally getting in the way! My brother and I would chase each other down the stairs to the workshop where my grandad would give us some change to nip next door to get some sweets from Nan and Murdo in Urquhart’s – now Baillie’s – before heading to Martin’s Fruit Bazaar with our gran to help with her shopping.
Although we spent a lot of time in the shop when we were younger, it’s fair to say I was never going to entertain the idea of working in the family business. I was always better with a pen and paper than with tools. I hadn’t planned for anything other than being a footballer so I really didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. I’m really happy that my brother decided to do it though and when he eventually takes over, he’ll be the fourth generation of owner which is a testament to how well thought of the business is in Perth.
Being a jeweller is a very unique trade and requires a lot of skill. Both my dad and brother work from a modest workshop underneath the main shop floor, repairing old jewellery and creating new pieces from scratch. There’s something about jewellery and how people become so attached to different rings, bracelets and necklaces that makes the repair side of things so important. Although in many respects we are a throwaway society nowadays, when it comes to jewellery many of us tend to keep things because of the sentimental value more than anything else. To become a good jeweller takes years of practice and experience, maybe that’s why there aren’t too many who can provide the same service that my family’s business can.
For my brother, getting into jewellery is something that happened almost by accident. As kids, both of us had the same dream as most young boys – to play football. We were lucky enough to be able to play at a high level for different clubs, and my brother was part of a successful Dundee under 17’s team but in the end wasn’t offered a professional deal. It was difficult for him and for the first time in his life, he had to think about what he was going to do for a living if he wasn’t going to be a footballer.
“I had dedicated so much of my time to playing football that I didn’t really focus enough on school and a back-up plan. So when I didn’t get a contract at Dundee, I suddenly had to think about my future. I hadn’t planned for anything other than being a footballer so I really didn’t have a clue what I was going to do.”
Like a lot of youngsters in Perth, he joined one of our city’s largest employers – Aviva. Knowing my brother like I do, I knew he wouldn’t be there for long. The call centre wasn’t for him and it was just an income while he decided what his next steps would be. It was about this time that he started to think about following in my dad’s footsteps and becoming a jeweller. My dad’s original plan was to send Matt to a jeweller in Dundee to learn his trade and to stop any clashes or fall outs between them! He had done the same and learned his trade in Dunfermline before returning to run the family workshop. However, after a few months the jeweller in Dundee had to make some of the staff redundant and it was a case of ‘last in, first out’ and he ended up back in the workshop with my old man.
“Learning from Dad has been brilliant. He’s a brilliant jeweller – some of the things he can create and fix are just amazing. I’ve learnt so much and he also put me through college courses in Glasgow as well as learning from him in the workshop so that I get as much experience as possible. Very often someone will come in to buy something or for a repair and tell us how their parents or grandparents used to come in to the shop! Now we can work on new designs and creations and I really enjoy coming into work and coming up with a new idea every day and putting it into practice.
“I love working in the shop and chatting to all of our customers. The community of Perth are so loyal and many of them have been coming into the shop since my grandad was here. It’s funny because as the shop has been passed down the generations, our customers seem to do the same. Very often someone will come in to buy something or for a repair and tell us how their parents or grandparents used to come in to the shop!
“I think that’s what makes Perth so great. Although it’s a small place, everybody knows everybody and it means that if you build a good reputation then people will always support your business. There are some great independent businesses throughout the city, especially on North Methven Street, and we all try to support and help each other because each one plays such a big part in our local community.
“I feel proud that when dad retires I’ll be the fourth generation in charge of the shop. We were young when grandad died but I remember spending time with him and dad in the workshop and I hope he and my gran would be chuffed that I decided to take on the family business.”
The shop has come a long way since 1938, and now with Matt waiting in the wings to take over from my dad he will take it on in new ways with another generation of customers coming through the shop doors. It may not have been the career he had always thought about, but it seems he has taken to it like a duck to water and I’m looking forward to seeing what exciting things lie ahead for the family business in the future!
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