An opportunity arrived in the form of televisions at a lower price than had previously been possible. There was a catch, no less than 72 identical sets had to be ordered, they could be paid for over four months but the whole lot would be delivered on the same day.
Selling the sets was not the first problem, when they arrived they filled the shop. They were taken out of their boxes in the street and then piled five high in the shop, every one was displayed. “It is no good having stock that cannot be seen” insisted Jim Snr.
Seventy-two televisions sets in a shop in Rye was unprecedented, the whole thing caught the local public’ imagination. People were coming to the shop just to gaze at the spectacle. So much interest was caused that for the first few days it was not necessary to leave the shop in search of customers, they came in numbers. In one period of two hours five televisions were sold.
In those early months of 1960 the small Rye business achieved another landmark, a brand new van, a Morris J2, was ordered. It arrived in red livery with the firm’s name displayed in yellow. By this time, second son Robert had joined the firm full time, youngest son, Richard, was still at school.
For any business to be successful the name of that business must be kept in the public view. The large red van with the firms name J. E. Hollands & Sons displayed boldly on each side, was worth at least £5 a week in advertising value. There are many more ways of advertising other than the conventional ones. The family tried them all. At one time a pet white nosed monkey named “Coco” was taken to the shop for a day. Coco was a great attraction, in fact so many people came to look at her doing “aerobatics” in the shop window that they overflowed into the road and caused a traffic hold up. Coco thought it was all great fun, she was the centre of attention and had never been given so many sweets and buns, unfortunately the proceedings were brought to a swift conclusion when the excitement and food became too much for her system to take, she was sitting on a record player deck, spinning her self round with one hand and clutching a sticky bun in the other, being sick and wetting herself at the same time. The affair had not gone off exactly as planned but the result was the same, the shop was the talk of the town again!
As the year progressed the business went from strength to strength. The little shop bulged at the seams with stock. Tape recorders, Radios, Transistors, Electric Irons, Toasters, Razors, Washing Machines, Fridges, Spin Dryers as well.
Display was fast becoming impossible, but what could be done? Jim Snr. had another brain wave, The large Restaurant opposite the shop was opened only during the summer holiday season. From Whitsun to September. The ‘super salesman approached the owner, Fred Taylor, and talked him into letting the building during the Winter months. It was a good arrangement for him, the rent was paid in advance and Jim agreed to be out of the building in good time to prepare it for opening as a Restaurant for the 1961 season. It was a brilliant arrangement for the firm, they could look forward to Christmas in a huge showroom. Stock was ordered from every available supplier, and a new line was introduced – Records.
Insurance of the valuable stock now became a problem. The Restaurant was not designed for this new use and before they would cover stock against theft the insurance companies demanded that special locks, bars on windows and a burglar alarm be fitted. This would have cost far too much in view of the very temporary nature of the venture, so it was decided to cover the stock for fire only and mount a guard on the premises each night. They took turns to sleep in the shop. Robert, Clive Wall and the two Jims took it in turns on a three day shift basis. Each one of them had their own “burglar dissuader” to protect them against intruders. Both Jim’s favoured a television table leg, Clive took his air rifle for his turn of duty and Robert, who was a keen fisherman, took with him a “priest”, a truncheon shaped implement covered at its top by a thick layer of lead. Fortunately Robert never had to “baptise” any intruders or I fear they would never have had the opportunity to repent their sins.
For some reason they overlooked to tell the police of their night watchman scheme, with rather an amusing consequence. One night as Young Jim lay on the bed in the prepared cubicle at the rear of the shop, he heard a noise at the window which was right by the bed. On investigation he saw a policeman outside of the window having a quiet smoke. Standing up until his head was in line with the open fanlight, his mouth was no more than six inches from the poor chaps ear, “Put that cigarette out constable!”…. P.C. Hunt almost collapsed on the spot. Young Jim had to invite him in for a cup of tea to steady his nerves. “I thought it was the Sergeant,” was all the constable could say.
The next night Jim Snr. was on duty. At 2 a.m. there was a hell of a bang on the window followed by an alarming crashing sound. He leapt out of bed like a scalded cat in time to see a Bobby emptying a dustbin full of tin cans in the alley way outside. It was the policeman’s way of getting his own back, unfortunately he had picked the wrong night. Not only was it a different night watchman in residence but the sergeant was standing behind him!
Rye’s Own August 2007