Founded in 1790, D. R. Harris is a chemists and perfumers whose flagship store is on St James's Street and holds the title of London's oldest pharmacy. The company prides itself on their own brand that among skin and haircare, also features high quality traditional shaving brushes and razors. With their products being used by the likes of the Royal Family, the company stand as a quintessential example of British timelessness. #VillageLondon spoke to Julian Moore from D.R. Harris' sales and marketing team to find out more about the shop and how they bring a sense of themselves to London.
Tell us a bit about what you do.
D. R. Harris is London's oldest dispensing pharmacy and we also have a large range of our own shaving products, aftershaves, colognes, soaps and skincare items. We are particularly well known for our shaving preparations and we also stock a very large range of shaving brushes and razors.
The fact that people can come in for their prescription or some paracetamol, or have made a special trip from abroad to come and buy a special shaving brush, means that we have a really diverse customer base, which we love.
How did it all start and where did you learn your trade?
D. R. Harris first set up on the corner of St. James's Street and King Street and have since been in various locations up and down St. James's Street. Originally, minor surgeries would have been carried out in the shop alongside the preparation of remedies specific to each customer. Also, in the early days, Harris's became well regarded for their Classic Cologne and Old English Lavender Water. Both of which are still sold today.
How is business?
We're finding that the general resurgence in interest in British made goods and timeless quality is driving a lot more business our way and, pleasingly, a lot of these new customers are young men who want something a bit different. We have a small shop on Piccadilly right next to the entrance of the Burlington Arcade which only sells our own brand products. This is such a great location for us to present ourselves to a new generation of customers and we've been really pleased with business there.
How is Westminster and how has it played a role in the business?
Westminster is the perfect location for us with its mix of tourists, business, private clubs and residents.
What made you choose the area?
I think the area, and specifically St. James's, has always been the place to be for Gentlemen and that would have played a large role in the decision for the original Harris's to settle here. For us, it is still such a great place location and the dedication and quality of all the other businesses in the area ensures that it still retains much of the old world charm.
Do you hope to bring even more of a sense of character to the area?
For the past 2 years we have been in a temporary location in Bury Street whilst the building and our shop at 29 St. James's Street has been refurbished. We will be moving back to 29 St. James's Street in early October. All of our traditional Victorian pharmacy shop fittings have been in storage for the past two years so it will be very exciting to get these back in there. The fittings are worth a visit in themselves!
How do you feel about gentrification in the local area?
There has been a lot of building work in the area in the last few years and I think it's likely to continue. The locality has certainly smartened up a bit but I think the developers and, particularly The Crown Estate, are sensitive to the unique nature of the area and keeping the balance between some of the larger names and the older, independent shops and galleries such as ours. I think the reintroduction of more residential units is also certainly a positive for us and the locality.
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