End of an era for Spalding shop

Up until very recently Ken Watkin was still nipping up ladders with his tape measure.

Now the sprightly 84 year old has finally retired and is looking forward to having more time for his car collection and visiting his daughter in Cyprus.

Ken Watkin and Jilly German with the last of the shop's stock. Photo: SG300715-124TW

Ken Watkin and Jilly German with the last of the shop's stock. Photo: SG300715-124TW

Ken Watkin has spent the past 47 years in business in Spalding, first as Watkin and Overton in New Road and, for the past eight years, in Red Lion Street, trading under his own name.

For much of that time Jilly German has been at his side, transferring her love of fashion and handbags to a passion for interiors.

The pair met at a shop whose name will be unfamiliar to many readers, Keightleys in Hall Place, described by Ken as “a little bit like John Lewis on a small scale”.

Jilly worked in the handbag department, where she started in the 1960s, and Ken ran the carpet and curtain department.

Ken Watkin celebrating 40 years in business in 2008. Photo: 1504181w25

Ken Watkin celebrating 40 years in business in 2008. Photo: 1504181w25

Ken had left school in 1944 at 14 and spent a year in Parkinson’s furniture shop in The Crescent before going to Berrills in Bridge Street for an apprenticeship, with two years out for National Service.

On his return to civilian life, Penningtons approached Ken saying they wanted to open a carpet department, and he was sent to Kensington High Street for two weeks to learn the administrative side of things.

The carpet department was duly opened in Penningtons, which was taken over by Keightleys. Eventually, the store closed and the site was taken over by Tesco.

It was then, in 1968, that Ken and Eric Overton, Keightleys store manager, set up in business in New Road as Watkin & Overton, a partnership that lasted 15 years.

Retirement at last for Ken Watkin. Photo: SG300715-125TW

Retirement at last for Ken Watkin. Photo: SG300715-125TW

They sold carpets, curtains and blinds, as well as bedding and wallpaper in the early days.

Jilly was taken on by Mr Overton and given the title Colour Consultant.

She says: “I was into houses and I adore fabrics. We have had wonderful times.

“People have come to see us and obviously we like to advise and it’s not as easy as you think to get it right, but we make it just what they would like. They bring a cushion in and we work it all out.”

For Ken, the shop has been his life, and even as they were selling off the remaining stock, he said: “I don’t want to give it up, but I’ll be 85 at Christmas. I have always enjoyed it.

“I have been lucky health-wise. I have lost a lot of my mates and see a lot of people walking on sticks and I went to school with them, but I have been exceptionally lucky health-wise and still go up ladders and fit blinds. I always did the measuring.

“I’d like to thank all the customers who have been loyal and dealt with us over the years.”