Buckenhams Locksmiths on Blackstock Road, just around the corner from our old Highbury home, is the very epitome of a family business – and is delighted to be taken into the Arsenal family, as our latest Supporting Supporters initiative.
Fourth-generation locksmith, Jack Romero takes up the story.
“My great grandfather, Arty Buckenham, started the business in 1959 with just one key cutter to his name. His daughter Jen and her husband Don – my grandma and grandad – then joined the business in 1970 (in time for Arsenal’s ‘double’!) and they are still working there today. As is my mum, Helen, and – since 2012, when I joined straight from school aged 16 – me too, so it really is a family business.
“We’re all big Arsenal fans. I grew up on Gillespie Road and went to Primary School at St Johns Highbury Vale. Our PE lessons were often in the old JVC Centre at the back of the Clock End, a massive thrill for an Arsenal mad kid.
“We have always done quite a lot of work for Arsenal. Pat O’Connor, who recently retired after over 50 years with the club, was a regular in the shop, which is a stone’s throw from Highbury and we have always loved having a relationship with the club.”
For a business so steeped in ‘the Arsenal’ it was a real thrill to be asked to be part of the Gunners’ local business initiative, though Jack explains that it almost didn’t happen.
“It absolutely blew us away when the club approached us to suggest we were part of the Supporting Supporters scheme,” he smiles. “Well, I say that, but my grandad was in the shop when the people from Arsenal came in and he’s pretty old school and I think he nearly put them off as he didn’t want too much fuss!
“But luckily we managed to get word to them that we were very keen and now grandad’s really into it – he came to the video shoot with my sister and had a great time. That was a fantastic day, Leah and Tony were so nice and we loved the idea for the advert.
“It was quite surreal, we just couldn’t believe all this was being done for our little locksmiths – you just don’t think this kind of thing happens to your business.
“All of the adverts have been so good. Like everyone, I couldn’t stop watching Aaron in the Chip Inn. As a fan, I knew it related back to the banter he was having with the fans at Leicester, I thought that was so clever.”
Arsenal’s involvement with Buckenhams has been a boost for a company who, like so many small businesses, have endured hard times throughout the pandemic.
“The pandemic has been tough for us – like the majority of businesses,” says Jack. “If people aren’t going out, they’re not going to lock themselves out and need a locksmith are they?!
"Seriously though, it was a really difficult time. We opened for a couple of days a week for some specialist work we could still generate but ultimately, if it hadn’t been for the furlough money, I’m not sure how we would have coped.
“Things are better now, but we seem to be moving straight into a cost of living crisis, which is going to really hit small businesses again.
“So ultimately, we’re really thankful to Arsenal to be involved in this project – it’s a dream come true to be honest.”
Finally, the fact the Buckenhams advert features legendary centre-halves from both the men’s and the women’s team is something Jack and his family were really pleased about.
“We love the association with Arsenal Women. Like a lot of football fans, I didn’t follow the women’s game closely but over recent years, the fact that it’s now easier to find on TV and all over the media means I now watch the game – and Arsenal in particular of course.
"I love how we are one of the real superpowers of the game and the fact there will be 20,000 fans at the Tottenham game – including me – says it all really.”
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