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A fixture on the Lea Bridge Road since the Second World War, WP Wakefield has aided the Leyton community for generations, selling difficult-to-find bits and pieces needed to mend and maintain people’s homes and possessions. The family shop has passed down to grandson John Bayley, who has held the reins for more than three decades. We found out why it is as much loved in Leyton now as when it opened 77 years ago.
My grandfather Frederick Bayley founded the shop in 1944. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, it was run by Fred and his business partner Mr Atkins. At that time, the business was mainly supplying the local engineering companies and factories. The shop had a vast range of products, from nuts and bolts and metal sheets to gardening equipment. It even sold petrol lawnmowers!
In about 1960, Fred’s sons, Tony and Rodney, joined the business. The shop quickly became known for having those hard-to-find items you could not get elsewhere, with rows of small wooden boxes on counters containing nuts, bolts and screws of all types and sizes. People would spend hours looking around, buying bits and pieces for jobs they had on. Mr Atkins retired in the 60s and Fred and his two sons continued to run the business. Frederick sadly passed away in 1988, after 44 years in the shop.
In 1990, I came into the business working with my father, Tony and my Uncle Rodney. Rodney died in 2006. I now run the shop with Andy, who I met at a pub my mum ran 22 years ago. He was looking for a new job, so I offered him a position one evening over a pint. He’s been here 21 years now, so he’s as good as family. We have expanded considerably in that time to include a large range of door handles and accessories.
Although he is now retired, my dad comes into the shop on the odd day, filling up the boxes and showing us the location of really old stock that only he knows how to find.
It is great to have such a loyal local customer base and we often have people coming in saying how good it is to be able to buy just one or two items, instead of having to buy a box or packet in the superstores.
Every day, someone comes in with a problem to solve. For example, it might be a kid’s scooter which has broken, and we are generally able to repair it or offer the parts needed.
At the other end of the scale, we supply local builders with all the items needed for full-scale building projects.
The local community has supported us for many years. They continue to come to us for all sorts of reasons. It could be to replace a letterbox or just to find an odd nut or bolt.
We have many regulars we have come to know, some of whom have been coming to the shop for over 50 years. Many customers comment on how they remember visiting as children with their parents. We would not be here without our local customers and I would like to thank them all for their continued support.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we operate a great deal. The aisles in the shop are very narrow and social distancing is not possible. With customers unable to browse the store, we have been forced to operate from the front door of the premises. This has had quite an impact on sales, as people usually pick up items as they walk around the shop. We hope to be able to fully reopen in July, subject to government advice.
Retail trade has been on a downward spiral for some time now and we have already lost some fantastic shops in the local area, such as Colvin’s in Wood Street, Davies fishmonger in Hoe Street and Winger Jewellers at the Bakers Arms, all of which had been trading for years.
If people do not support local businesses, the high street as we know it will be gone and the only place you will be able to shop is Amazon and other huge online companies. Local businesses are here to offer advice and help.
We are very aware that our future relies on local people continuing to use our services and we thank them very much for doing so.