‘Customer is always right’

Brian Eaton, new owner of the Strand Centre Douglas.

Brian Eaton, new owner of the Strand Centre Douglas.

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Brian Eaton says he started work at the age of 14 earning £1 a week as a shop assistant for the original Currys family business.

He worked 44 hours a week, or five a half days a week and gave 15 shillings of that princely quid to his mother.

He would spend two shillings and sixpence and saved the remaining two shillings and six pence.

All a bit different now for the 82-year-old businessman who has just bought the Strand Shopping Centre in a cash sale worth millions of pounds.

Mr Eaton said he came to live in the Isle of Man around 17 years ago after selling his successful television rentals and sales business.

He told Business News he settled in Port Erin because ‘I think I was hypnotised by the bay.’

He said he initially thought he would be retiring here in the island but ‘I could not resist going back into business.

‘I had Man Auto Tyres and Exhaust Garage and a couple of guest houses and built Eaton Court, which is 12 upmarket apartments in Palace Road, Douglas.’

He said he now splits his time between Eaton Court and the south of the island.

‘I now live here [in Douglas] for five or six days a week to cut the travelling.’

Mr Eaton told Business News he was able to buy the Strand Shopping Centre having bought and sold a few other properties including the Man Garage.

He said he had bought it from the receivers as ‘an investment really and to be involved with shops again.’

He said: ‘I heard it was for sale. Being a retailer at heart, having started off in England working for the original Currys family business. Basically I’ve been a shopkeeper all my life.’

He said: ‘I got interested in it [the sale of the Strand Shopping Centre] and I had the money and after chasing it for some little time made a bid.

‘Then I had the phone call to say that it was mine.

He said he does not have any plans for major changes saying: ‘You could not have a more pleasant shopping centre really. It is nicely designed.’

Mr Eaton said he aims to take a hands-on approach with the centre and promised: ‘I will continue to help local charities and sport organisations.’ This would be reflected in the centre’s support of charity activities, he said.

Mr Eaton said: ‘We will reduce overhead costs which will reflect on the shop prices and rents. The customer is always right.’

He added that he has always worked six or seven days a week and still puts in 8am to 8pm working days.

He said he has a passion for sports including tennis, badminton and swimming. He also enjoys dancing and has made many friends in the island. Mr Eaton aims to keep involved on a daily basis with the centre which will continue to be run by manager John Shakespeare and his number two Louise Wyman.

As reported in last week’s Courier Mr Eaton is hoping Tesco will take over the empty former MEA shop.

Brian J Eaton Ltd took over ownership on November 3.

Cushman and Wakefield LLP, appointed by the receivers as agent for the property management of the centre, have been reappointed by the new owner.

Mr Eaton originally travelled here on his motorbike in 1948 for the TT. He said: ‘I camped at Hillberry and I suppose my mind had been over here for years before I finally arrived 17 years ago.’

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