WJ Bennett reaches a century, not out!

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WJ Bennett as it is today, 100 years later
WJ Bennett as it is today, after 100 years

It’s so refreshing to be able to report good news and whilst information relating to the ongoing negative issues are also important to impart, Rye News keeps on unearthing positive nuggets of news which we are always delighted to share with you.

Rye High Street
No parking issues 100 years ago

We are constantly battered with stories in the national press about the demise of the High Street, while fast-food outlets and big-chain coffee shops seem to be taking over the world, spreading like a rash. No doubt the fashion will change at some point and they may go the same way as some mobile phone shops for example. Its is so satisfying to see that in these troubled times quality and well run businesses manage to buck the trend and continue to thrive.

Once again another Rye business has something to shout about, first it was The Waterworks, then The Devil in Rye and now an amazing milestone has been reached by another well established and respected business.

In 1919, William “Biffi” Bennett first opened the doors of WJ Bennett and 100 years later it is still trading under the same name which surely must make it one of the longest established businesses in the South East, perhaps the country?

It’s survival as a traditional “Gentleman’s Outfitter” is down to hard work, high standards of style and service as well as keeping in touch with fashion trends. The shop was one of the first in the South East to stock Levi jeans and Ben Sherman shirts, way ahead of its time but another key element of its success is how the business has evolved over time and continued to stay in tune with what the public want today.

W.J. Bennett in 1921
Taken two years after first opening

Our photos show the shop front before and after as the business has evolved and flourished, the window now is a rainbow of colour proudly displaying a superb range of quality fashion. The photo of Rye High Street was kindly provided by local historian, Alan Dickinson.

During its 100 years of trading the business has had just four owners, Andrew and Hayley May, the current owners, are planning to celebrate this special birthday in mid September, there’s something special planned, watch this space for more information.

Until then, Andrew and Hayley need your help. Does anyone have any old photos of the shop or any interesting stories or anecdotes which they would like to share? Have you always bought your shirts from WJ Bennett did your father get that special suit there?

We need our readers help to make this nostalgic event even more special so please have a rummage in your attic, dig out and flick through those old photo albums, phone that old acquaintance who used to buy all their special clothes at 99 High Street and then contact Rye News with your findings. Then, with your permission they could be included in the next article about the owners’ plans to celebrate such an amazing achievement.

Image Credits: Hayley May , Alan Dickinson , WJ Bennett .

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