Hi James, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m the store owner of Neptune Tonbridge and I live in Kent with my wife, Alison, who is a school teacher, and our two children and three cats.
What did you do before you opened Neptune Tonbridge?
I studied business at university and went to work for an investment bank in London as an analyst. But, deep down, I always wanted to run my own business.
So how did you come to partner with Neptune?
We were extending our house and researching kitchens when we first came across Neptune and decided to install the Chichester kitchen. I really enjoyed working on the project with the design team but our nearest store was in Reading so I saw an opportunity to open a showroom in Kent. Alison and I met with the team at Neptune HQ in 2010 and by early 2011 I’d opened a small showroom on Tonbridge High Street selling three of the kitchen designs.
In the early years, my mum helped me run the showroom as she’d worked in retail previously, but it was intense. I was working six days a week selling and designing the kitchens. Luckily, Alison was very supportive. As the brand grew and the collection grew, there was an opportunity to open a bigger showroom, so in April 2014 we opened the Tonbridge Design Centre with a 6,500 sq ft showroom. It was a big leap but we’ve come so far. Today, we’re a 14-strong team.
Now that you have a bigger team, what’s your day to day like as the store owner?
I still sit with the kitchen design team and oversee the project management. We work on projects as a team while Dawn, our store leader, runs the showroom and I manage the business side of things.
You must have worked on some interesting projects over the years?
In Kent, we have a number of oast houses so designing a kitchen to fit a roundel is an interesting challenge! There are also lots of barn conversions in the area as well as new-builds and Georgian and Victorian properties, so there’s definitely plenty of variety.
We know it’s nosy, but we’d love to know what your own home is like?
We live in a 1950s house in Tonbridge, which is definitely Neptune-styled inside!
Do you have a favourite Neptune design?
Well, I love the timeless simplicity of all the collections and the quality of the way they’re built. I know when I buy something that I’ll still love it in 15 years. And, as a customer myself before I even joined Neptune, I can have faith in what I’m selling. We recently repainted our ten-year-old Chichester kitchen in Silver Birch and changed the handles and it looks like new. But I must admit to being a fan of the Henley kitchen, especially now you can mix the oak cabinetry with painted doors. It’s a real classic.
And how about your favourite thing about your store?
We work well as a team. During the first lockdown, I was often in the showroom on my own and that was a strange experience. Thankfully in the second lockdown we were busy completing projects and we offered a call and collect service. Since we’ve been able to open properly, we’ve been immensely busy. It’s good to see the showroom getting back to normal life after a year of change.