Store proves you cannot beat personal service

John Taylor, always known as Bill, outside the first shops in Arundel Street in 1928.

John Taylor, always known as Bill, outside the first shops in Arundel Street in 1928.

A screen shot from the British Pathe footage on YouTube

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This week’s oldest business is the longest-established so far, as Arundel Aviaries & Fisheries has been trading in the same Portsmouth street since 1927.

More than that, the present owner, John Taylor, the son of the original owner, has been serving the public since 1950 at the shop in Arundel Street, Landport.

He started in the shop full-time when he left school, but had helped his father for many years before that. So when he joined the firm he was half-way to knowing the business.

He is now assisted by his wife June, son Lee, his wife Lu and assistant Clare. Two granddaughters also step in when needed at their wonderful shop at 213-215 Arundel Street,,where they have been since 1960.

John Taylor began his business at the other end of Arundel Street – the first shop being at 213. He then took over the shop next door, both trading as Arundel Aviaries.

He even started the first public aquarium long before the Blue Reef on the seafront.

Unfortunately a council inspector took exception and told John if he was charging the public to look around his aquarium he would have to have a fire escape, fire alarm and extra insurance.

He overcame this rule by simply leaving the front door open so that everyone could come in and look around for free. Of course, many took up the hobby and bought John’s fish and tanks.

With the rebuilding of Portsmouth in the late 1950s John had to move to new premises, first to 241 and then to 313-315 near Fratton Road where the business has been trading ever since.

I asked present owner John Taylor how trade had changed down the years.

He says: ‘Mostly the exotic animals, the trade of which has been banned for several reasons.

‘We used to sell monkeys, small squirrel monkeys which were popular at one time.

‘Then there were civet cats, bush babies, snakes and chameleons.’

One of the strangest incidents occurred when Southern Television filmed in the shop about 50 years ago.

‘The presenter did the chat and to finish walked out of the shop with a monitor lizard about six feet long on the end of a lead.’

As he finished talking to camera the presenter took fright and let go of the lead. The monitor took off down Arundel Street with John giving chase. Just imagine the scene.

Eventually John managed to jump on the lead and capture the beast. It was eventually sold to Bristol zoo.

The aquarium attached to the shop contains some 250 tanks with some of the most exotic fish in the world swimming quite happily. Some are so tame they followed my hand as I slowly passed it across the tank.

One animal John will never let go is his lovely parrot, Bob. He has been a feature of the shop for 27 years and John often lets him out for people to stroke. ‘The children love him,’ says John.

The shop is so popular that in a poll in the magazine Practical Fish Keeping it came 34th in the UK in popularity.

So, another private business quietly goes on trading in Portsmouth proving once again that you cannot beat personal service.

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