Members of the Rayner family have been selling building and DIY products on Brixton Road for nearly 40 years. Simone Richardson finds out about how they managed lockdown and their plans for the future … and that Monday is their busy day
“We seem to be doing something right,” says Paul Rayner, one of the family who run Blissetts builders supplies and DIY store on Brixton Road and who have kept it going through the lockdowns.
But why Blissetts and not Rayners?
Paul, whose knowledge of the shop goes back a long way, explains that a Mr Blissett started the business more than 60 years ago. When the Rayners took over in 1983, they kept the name.
It was a shrewd move. The Rayners have been travelling to work in Brixton from their East London home for nearly 40 years.
“My father Derek bought the lease after my mother Janet spotted in a sales publication that Mr Blissett was retiring,” says Paul.
“I understand that Mr Blissett set up the shop alongside his building contracting business.”
Before that 32 Brixton Road was home to a house removal company. Even further back, the site was a cheese makers.
“Evidence of this can still be seen with our cobbled yard, where horses would pull the milk churns up and down. Stable buildings were at the rear of the yard,” says Paul.
“I worked alongside my father from 1983, my brother Mark joined in 2000 and my son Tom came into the business four years ago, shortly after my father passed away.”
Blissett’s has been open after closing for just a few weeks at the beginning of the first lockdown in March last year.
Despite talk of customers going online to buy stuff for DIY, homes and gardens, it is still trading.
“We have very fortunately been allowed to trade over the last year as this type of business is deemed essential,” Paul says.
“But we are saddened that some of our neighbouring businesses haven’t been able to trade, and also feel for our customers who are very concerned what will happen as we go through the year with their jobs and businesses.”
Blissetts has a wide range of goods on offer. “Decorating products are the most popular at the moment and Monday is our busiest day,” says Paul.
But no day is typical. “The area is very diverse, which makes no two days the same,” Paul explains.
“‘We have found people to be very nice around here and supportive to our business, something we particularly noticed when our dad passed away.
“We had so many people coming in to pass on their condolences and even had flowers left outside the shop, as dad was much loved around here.
“I think he would be pleased how hard we have been trying to keep things going and, looking at some really nice Google reviews lately, we seem to be doing something right.”
So Paul and his brother Mark and son Tom are on the right track to survive.
“We have noticed that, although our account custom has, of course, declined hugely in the pandemic, local people have been doing more DIY and gardening, and that has allowed us to tick over.”
So much so that, as regards the future, suggess Paul, “We intend to perhaps look to increase our garden-related products.
“I think the small retailer does have a part to play and people are realising that they shouldn’t always assume that big stores are cheaper.
“If you think it out logically, big stores have tremendous running costs and therefore, on lots of items, they are actually more expensive.”
So get down and buy your bargains from Paul, Mark or Tom at Blissetts.
- 32 Brixton Road, SW9 6BU
- 020 7735 4095
Monday – Friday 8am – 5.30pm
Saturday – 8.30am – 4pm