A canny eye for a good investment led Arnold and Alfred Roy to a business legacy that has thrived for more than 100 years. From a modest building alongside a tiny community, the brothers took advantage of a fledgling tourist industry and built a wildly successful business, dominating the whole village from which it took its name and, at one point, even supplying it with street lighting and public toilets. To this day, Roys of Wroxham proudly declares itself to be the world's biggest village store. The choice of site showed foresight. It was near a railway station and the seaside town of Cromer, in Norfolk, which in the 1890s, was becoming a fashionable resort. The store was perfectly positioned to provide supplies and the holiday trade was a big bonus for the company, and still is, despite the comparative decline in popularity of the Broads, says chairman Peter Roy, son of co-founder Alfred. "We originally built the business around the holiday trade, but have had to move away from that to a certain extent. However it is still good, so we're fortunate," he says. Alfred and Arnold bought up land surrounding their small store and the business soon occupied every corner of the village centre. At one point the company included a large grocery store, ironmonger, draper and milliner, tailor, pharmacy, fishing tackle store, a furniture and carpet department and a garage. The brothers even had a fish shop and an antiques business. These days the site is more modest, comprising seven stores, a two-storey department store, gardening centre, DIY and home improvement centre, a fashion shop, Roys Toy Shop, Children's World clothes and food hall. The company has expanded across East Anglia and now has eight variety' stores, selling a mixture of food and non food, from North Walsham down to Sudbury. However the Wroxham complex still remains its most important site, bringing in about half the company's business. Roys celebrated its centenary in 1995, but the occasion was marred by a fire which gutted the department store. However, it was rebuilt in a year. The company finished 12th in The Grocer's Top 50, with a turnover of £53m, and managing director Brian Godfrey is optimistic that next year will be even more successful. "We're aiming for about £67m this year, but we won't rush things. We're completely family owned so there's no pressure from the City," he says. The family business is into its third generation: Peter's sons, Edward and Paul, have joined as finance director and merchandise director respectively. "Both have had training outside the company and that's important," says Roy. Roy and Godfrey say the key to the company's success has been its strong relationship with the customer. "We stay close to the coal face," says Roy. "We don't have customer loyalty cards, we keep things simple. We listen to customers and if they ask for something we act." Despite the competitiveness of grocery and non-food, Roy believes the future is secure. "The private trade is scared of the multiples but there's no reason to be if you play your cards right. We are small so we can talk to customers and they tell us when we've got something wrong." Roys is always looking for new sites and stores. Says Godfrey: "It will be a gradual process, one store at a time. There are about 20 towns within a 100-mile radius that can support our stores." So, with the new generation on board, Roys of Wroxham looks prepared to weather its second centenary ­ and the inevitable changes ­ in fine style. n {{FEATURES }}