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Historic family garage closing after 94 years

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 December 2019

From left, three generations, Dennis, Tom and Percy Reeve all worked at the garage making it popular with locals

From left, three generations, Dennis, Tom and Percy Reeve all worked at the garage making it popular with locals

Archant

One of Dartford's oldest businesses is finally shutting up shop after generations of family members have taken up the cause.

A photo taken in the very early days, but Paul doesn't know the exact year.A photo taken in the very early days, but Paul doesn't know the exact year.

Reeve's Garage at 104 Hythe Street is closing down after 94 years under the same family ownership.

Present owner Paul Reeve say it was all started by his grandparents in 1925 in Kingsfield Terrace before moving to the current site in 1928. Originally they made pushbikes before venturing into car repairs and then MOT testing.

During the war they machined ammunition parts for Fraser and Chalmers in Erith.

Dennis Reeve, now 91, remembers cycling to Erith to collect raw materials and then delivering the finished products back.

Dennis Reeve and his father Tom at the garage. Sadly Paul doesn;t know exactly which year the photo was taken but estimates it from the 1930sDennis Reeve and his father Tom at the garage. Sadly Paul doesn;t know exactly which year the photo was taken but estimates it from the 1930s

Unfortunately Dennis is now incapacitated with ill health but actually worked at the very place he was born up until he was 88.

Paul said: "There have been various building amendments over the years but essentially the site is very similar to that of yesteryear. Some of the site was sold on to a relative who operated a car body repair shop

during the 70s through to around the late 90s when it was sold on to what is now an independent competitor.

"The garage sold fuel from around 1960 to 1980 under the Esso and then Ultramar brands.

The historic Reeve's Garage as it is todayThe historic Reeve's Garage as it is today

"This however was a loss making enterprise for many years and in hindsight should have been shelved many years before. To replace fuel sales and keep a job open, a TNT parcel franchise was taken on in

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the early 80s, whereby the business earned a commission from sales of TNT parcels brought into the garage which was effectively used as a mini-depot from which TNT collected every evening."

Dennis embraced this new venture and the business won several prizes for sales.

Paul said: "They were the first to actually go and collect parcels from customers and it wasn't long before a small fleet developed and a separate independent same day courier operation developed alongside this."

It was at this time that Dennis' son Paul was brought into the business to help run this side of things as well as bring the place up to date administratively by computerising accounts and then the garage and courier operations.

Paul said: "I remember those days as very exciting with vans going all over the country and occasionally Europe. It was however hard to keep both businesses running under the same roof and so it was decided, after about 20 years, to pull out of the transport business, concluding that the garage business was more stable.

"So for the last 20 years or so the business has concentrated purely on servicing, mechanical repairs and MOT testing. The garage has seen all sorts of changes through the years apart from the fuel sales.

"The change to lead-free fuel and the computerisation of the MOT test are changes that spring to mind but clearly in a 94 year history there were many others."

When Dennis was at the age that Paul is now, Paul had been in the business for a few years, whereas Paul's children have no intention of taking on the business.

Paul said: "Consequently it has been decided to sell the land and end this long standing family business. There are so many reasons behind the decision, some trade related, some environmental, but the biggest issue for me remains an inability to take a full week off and so a work life balance has won through. I am not sure what the future holds but it will not be retirement as such."

Unfortunately attempts to sell as a going concern did not materialise and so the property has been sold to a developer.

Dennis and Paul said they want to thank all those customers, which in some cases is three generations of the same family, for their custom and loyalty and also for all the overwhelming messages of gratitude, understanding and well wishes for the future.

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