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Ron Campion is a true stalwart of the Brixham community; he manages his successful family interiors business, is an RNLI Torbay Station Officer; goes sailing and powerboating and still finds time to be a guest at Brixham’s Festival and other local events. Anita Newcombe went to meet him.
The Campions have been styling our interiors since the swinging sixties when Ron’s father Elbirt (but known as Ron) started E. Campion at 33 Bolton Street, Brixham. He sold his car for £200 to fund the business and after initially renting the premises, a year later he bought the freehold and extended the property, tripling the showroom space. It seems that the Campion’s brand of furnishing was already going down a storm with the locals.
It didn’t stop there; in 1969 Elbirt (Ron) invested £4,000 and bought the house next door expanding both upwards and backwards into a spanking new 3-storey showroom.
The second generation Ron, who I am chatting with today, joined the business as a carpet fitter in 1970 at the age of 15. By 1974 he had started working in the shop and when is father died suddenly in 1975, Ron, now aged just 20 and with hardly any experience, took over the business.
He tells me, “It was pretty rough at first. I barely knew how to fill in a paying-in slip and had to have everything explained to me by the bank staff”.
He must have been a quick learner though because he carried on expanding the business and in 1990 opened an oriental rug shop in Torquay’s Union Sqaure, subsequently expanding into Market Street and adding furniture and beds.
Two years later he took over Interiors of Totnes and carried on running the 3 businesses. In 2000 with business still booming, he had hoped to expand in Torquay by purchasing the old MFI building but he discovered the roof would need replacing and this became a deal-breaker. So he said said to himself, “blow it” and instead extended the Brixham store still further, expanding into number 37 which had been a fishmonger and then 39 & 41 which had been a butcher’s shop.
Ron Campion Interiors celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015 and the Brixham store had a complete revamp and a full rebrand with new logos and signage. At this time, the team also completed the business’s integration into other areas offering bed linen, lighting, pictures and gifts. They provide an interior design service plus full holiday home refurbishment, often putting a full design scheme together with everything from reflooring and recarpeting to providing attractive pictures and even down to the cutlery. Knowing all the holiday home regulations means that they can help and advise their clients accordingly. Ron explains that they now have a loyal following of customers mainly in and around Torbay. Their products can be found online but most of their customers like the personal approach. They also have some major contracts coming as far a field as Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter.
Ron has no family to follow in his footsteps. He tells me, “I’ve always been really independent and the business has been all encompasing”. But there’s an experienced team in place to continue the traditions of excellence including Peter Bromfield Furniture Manager, Nick Hart Carpet and Flooring Manager, Simon Breese Senior Sales Advisor and Alan Wheeler IT and Marketing Manager.
But Ron doesn’t spend all his time working. He serves the community as Deputy Launching Authority (DLA) for Torbay Lifeboat and is on 24-hour call for 5 days plus 1 weekend every 5 weeks. This means that if a May Day (grave and imminent danger to life) or Pan Pan (urgent assistance needed) comes in on his watch, then Ron has to evaluate the facts and determine whether to authorise the launch of the all weather Lifeboat, the inshore Lifeboat or both.
Ron expalins, “I’ve spent all my life on or around water as a sailor, racing sailor and Powerboat Level 2 Instructor”.
He keeps an Impala 28 sailing yacht at Brixham Marina, racing her on Thursday evenings with Brixham Yacht Club and also competes in regattas such as Torbay and Dartmouth.
…..So no one can accuse the Ron Campion brand of failing to keep up with the latest trends. But can anyone keep up with Ron himself!…I doubt it!
First Published in By The Dart August 2015
Ron Campion, The Interiors Store, based in Brixham, is 50 years old this year but the store has hardly had time to celebrate, as it’s been as busy as ever.
With the business growing well, it’s also been steadily refurbishing its showrooms and has done much to move the business online. Ron Campion has been running the store for more than 30 years. His father started it with a small showroom (on the site it still occupies to this day) on July 9th 1965. Then it was called E. Campion (his father was called Elbirt but was also known as Ron), later changing its name to E. Campion & Son and now, after a rebrand earlier this year is known simply as Ron Campion, The Interiors Store.
Ron started in the business straight from school in 1970, initially as a carpet fitter and delivery driver, before moving onto the ‘shop floor’ in 1975. Following the unexpected early death of his father later that year aged only 56 years, Ron took over the business, for a few years running it with his mother and then for the past 35 years by himself.
The business was rebranded The Interiors Store to better reflect its expanded range of products, which now encompass most elements of furniture and furnishings – e.g. carpets, wood flooring, beds, bedroom furniture, dining furniture, upholstery (sofas and chairs) and, now bed linen, mirrors, pictures, lighting etc. Although the business has expanded laterally and vertically on its Bolton Street site, its available product range cannot all be displayed. Hence the importance of its website www.roncampion.co.uk on which are listed the full range of products available as well the facility to browse the relevant brochures from the store’s main suppliers.
Ron and his team encourage a customer to browse the website but then phone or visit the store so that they can be offered the appropriate product advice which will ensure they choose the item that best suits their needs.
Ron says, “we are often surprised by how many potential customers will go first to our site and then call us to discuss their requirements in more detail. With our many years of experience of this industry, we can pretty much answer most questions and pride ourselves on how many of these calls we then convert to actual paying customers. This type of service and trust is of particular value to someone who lives at a distance, perhaps is moving into the area, or has a holiday home here or is possibly purchasing on behalf of their elderly parents who live in the area. They are frequently surprised by what we can offer.”
Dartmouth and other parts of South Devon can be physically challenging – either because access for deliveries is awkward or it’s not easy for larger furniture items to negotiate difficult access within the properties themselves. Ron’s team will often visit a customer’s home to measure up to see what furniture will best fit and ensure delivery works efficiently. “We’ve seen plenty of examples of goods being bought online,” says Ron, “and then left on the garden path because the delivery guy can’t or won’t overcome any difficult obstacles.”
Ron Campion’s is the only major interiors store in Brixham. But with basically one main road in and one road out, the shop doesn’t get as much passing traffic as it normally would in other towns. Despite this, it successfully attracts customers from all over South Devon, which it does by focusing on providing value for money and an above average attention to customer service.
Ron says; “When it’s real value you’re looking for, we offer the very best product for you at a competitive price with efficient delivery and the best back up service available. We believe that increasingly, people like to buy locally, want to be sure it will be delivered when they are there and have someone to talk to after their purchase should there be any problems. They like to see a face behind a name and have trust in our knowledge and skill. Buying over the internet can sometimes be too impersonal. Customers want to be confident that something they have bought will actually provide them with what they need.”
That said, Ron is still very keen on fully exploiting the internet off the back of the business’s excellent local reputation. A new sister website www.roncampiononline.co.uk was launched last month to allow customers to buy online. For the moment, the site offers mostly bed linen. As Ron explains, “we can’t easily fulfill the delivery of large items of furniture from the web to far flung parts of the UK but we can do so with such smaller items. We are treading along this path cautiously for the moment but we hope it will provide added value to current and new customers.
The fact that Ron and his team will go the extra mile is illustrated by a part of their business that is showing strong growth amongst the area’s more elderly demographic i.e. sales of the “lift and rise” chairs. Ron explains; “these chairs have for a long time been sold at ridiculously inflated prices often by high pressure salesmen. We’ve a large choice of such chairs at great prices, significantly less than £1,000 and can even custom fit them to a client’s specific needs. We sell chairs ranging in size from petite to large and will often arrange a home demonstration to which we will take along two or three alternative chairs so the customer can choose what’s right for them without even having to leave their own home.”
Despite being in the business for more than 40 years, Ron Campion’s enthusiasm and energy for it remains undiminished. “I have a few more years left in me.” His outlook for the business is matched by his confidence that, at long last, Brixham is also seeing the regeneration it deserves with new investment in the town, its restaurants and its shops. “I am determined that Ron Campion, The Interiors Store, will play its part in driving this forward.”