In our latest interview with a prominent figure in Caterham Valley, we meet Andrew Browne, owner of the historic JJ Browne & Son jewellery stores and chairman of the Caterham Business Improvement District (BID).
Tell us a bit about JJ Browne & Son…
We are a family-run jewellers who have been established in Caterham since 1921 when my grandfather opened our first shop in Croydon Road. I joined the business in 1984, following in my own father’s footsteps, and we opened our second shop, in Godstone Road, in 1986. Today, we specialise in diamond-set jewellery and cultured pearls, as well as antique pieces and second-hand watches, plus more modern and gift items. We also offer a repair service for most clocks and jewellery, as well as the re-threading beads and pearls, and engraving by machine or by hand.
What made you decide to set up in Caterham?
My grandfather actually came over here from Northern Ireland after serving his apprenticeship with a horologist there. He saw an opportunity for a clock-winding and maintenance service in the town – and the rest, as they say, is history. Back in those days, he would travel all over Caterham for his work – from large mansion houses, where they might have up to 20 clocks, to Caterham Barracks and St Lawrence’s Hospital. There are still people in the town today who can remember him doing his rounds.
Is there any advice you would have for other business owners in Caterham?
Well, I think the secret of our own longevity can be attributed to two simple things: hard work and good customer service. Those, to me, are the two critical ingredients. I have a real bugbear about the service you often get in chain stores, where you generally end up with someone with little interest and no product knowledge. If you go to an independent, however, you will almost always get someone who is both passionate and knowledgeable. Here at our stores, I am happy to say that we get customers returning time and again, and in fact we frequently follow their journey as they grow up – from christening presents to receiving a special 18th birthday gift to choosing their engagement and wedding rings.
Why should someone visit your business for the first time?
We have a very wide selection of jewellery, which sometimes surprises people, as they assume they will find a bigger range in stores in Croydon or London, but that really isn’t the case. Plus, not only do we offer a very diverse range but it is also competitively priced.
What would be your top tip for someone visiting Caterham?
I would say to them, simply come and enjoy a good walk around the town. We have a fantastic selection of shops here, with a good mix of chains and independents, and a wide array of interesting gifts and products. In fact, if you take the time to have a wander round, there are some real hidden gems in the town. So, just come down and start exploring.
Describe your typical lunch break to us…
Sadly, I rarely get time to take a break myself, as I’m usually busy with the customers, but there are some excellent places in the town. For example, they do really good coffee at the station café, Colairo’s, which is always good, and then there’s the excellent Caffe Bambino, which is another great asset to the town.
Finally, tell us your favourite thing about Caterham Valley…
There is a great community of people here in Caterham – with some lovely business-owners and, of course, all our fantastic customers. That’s what really makes Caterham, I think. Also, it’s quite an exciting time for the town, too, with the opening of places like the new zero-waste shop – which will be a great addition to the area. That’s exactly the sort of niche shop we need because it’s these that make Caterham an interesting and special town, and also a great destination to visit.
- Find out more about JJ Browne & Son in the Caterham Valley business directory.
- Share what you most love about Caterham Valley with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Meet more Caterham Characters…
- Meet Stuart Johnston from home-improvements business, Shard Solutions
- Meet The Caterham Cobbler, Stilios Photiou
- Meet Said Yazici from Caterham Sweet and Savoury Waffles
- Meet Abigail Pedrick from Pedrick’s Zero Waste Shop
- Meet Erika Giucastro, team leader at Clarks Shoes
- Meet Paul Smith, director of Fenchurch Insurance Brokers
- Meet the joint owner of Specsavers, Sundip Patel
- Meet Vitaltone Pharmacy and Vitaleyes Opticians’s Shim Patel
- Meet the manager of St Catherine’s Hospice charity shop, Emma Glass
- Meet Bow Butterfly’s Katie Kennedy
- Meet Time Hair & Beauty’s Katherine Casey-Farmer
- Meet Jade Insurance’s Martin Kemp
- Meet Caterham Galleries’ Jodie Green
- Meet Surrey Strength and Performance owner, Daniel Iaciofano
- Meet Helena Fortley bridal boutique’s Sally Brady
- Meet Wingate’s Ben Clarke
- Meet Huntley Cartwright’s Chris Huntley
- Meet Bib & Tucker’s Togs Ali
- Meet The Wedding LookBook’s Ying Shi