The Grand Original

david worsfold owner of FarrantsDavid Worsfold, owner of Farrants

We’ve launched ‘Elmbridge Icons’, a series that provides our clients with the chance to find out more about the people who form the communities in which they live – be they shop owners, restaurateurs or even the local postman. And who better to feature as the inaugural Elmbridge Icon than David Worsfold, owner of Farrants, Cobham’s longest standing high street business.

I started as Dad’s Lackey back in the early 1980s, but even then I was made to jump through hoops to get the job.

His intentions were good, though. He placed a huge value on education. So, when I asked him for a job after school, he agreed - but only once I’d achieved my A-levels. After my results came in I went back to him with the same request. He agreed, but only if I went and got my degree.

I graduated in 1982, by which time Dad was in his mid-50s and, knowing that I was interested in retail, he finally relented. Dad had owned the business for decades by this point having married the daughter of Tommy Wiseman, who had eventually taken over in 1939 after Mr Farrant had retired in 1936, so had established a reputable business that used to sell 2,000 – 3,000 newspapers a day. On Sunday’s alone we’d deliver between three and four tonnes of newspaper.

My niche was stationery. Even from the moment I joined the business, I began to make my mark in this area. And it’s a good thing I did. By the time 1998 arrived newspapers and tobacco were in decline, so stationery became a key facet of the business.

1998 was a pivotal year for another reason, too. After recently getting married, in which my wife and I rode down Cobham high street on a camel, flanked by a police escort and a group of friends on Harley Davidsons, I found myself wanting more than just a job; I wanted ownership.

One day I was invited to Dad’s house to find him sitting in-between an accountant and a solicitor. We agreed a deal, I bought the business and so began a period of buying more units, which included a standalone stationery shop and a toyshop called Funtasia. At one point, the stationery shop was so successful that we had become Sony’s top performer, selling more computers than any other retailer in the UK – including John Lewis!

By 2015, the costs of running a retail unit meant that consolidation was the only viable option. We sold the leases of two of the three shops and rolled them into the large one you see today, which I’m really proud of.

Stationery is still a huge part of what we do. We’re also getting ready to launch a cigar lounge to complement the specialist humidor and range of cigars located in a separate room. We’re already establishing ourselves as an international supplier and have grown a list of high-profile clients from around the area and overseas. Michael, our very own cigar connoisseur, is currently working towards becoming a Master of Havana Cigars. If successful, he will be one of only 27 in the world.

I grew up in Cobham, so have seen huge amounts of change over the years. I’ve not just seen new properties appear, but entire streets and even closes. The term Grand Original is given to those who grew up in – or who recognise pictures of – Cobham when it looked very different to what it does today. If you’re of a certain age and can identify a part of Cobham from a picture of it in the 1950s or 1960s, then you too are a Grand Original.

It’s funny, as I’ve found myself becoming my dad over the years. The only difference is that unlike me, my children have already established careers outside of Farrants. My first daughter is now a successful lawyer and my son has done very well from working as a senior member on the Deliveroo team. The second daughter seems set on a career in finance. Sadly, there won’t be a family successor.

Maybe, when the time comes, it probably won’t even matter; I’ll be too busy enjoying yoga with my wife, who is a personal trainer, and travelling the world.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Farrants. 5-19 High St, Cobham KT11 3DH. 01932 862184

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