Richard Negus is sold on Workwear’s friendly atmosphere as he takes us on a tour of his favourite gunshop
In 1998, in a portable building on the outskirts of the small Suffolk town of Eye, a business opened selling cleaning products. We are not talking about the duck-shaped stuff that you squirt around the toilet bowl, more the caustic and potentially skin-removing variety that farmers and local authority workers use.
David Tennens took over the business from his brother in 2003 and, like most savvy businessmen, exploited an opportunity to expand. When Jimmy Ling, the much-loved gunsmith of Hoxne, retired and closed his establishment, this region, so rich in shooting lore, was suddenly without a gunshop. David began selling cartridges and then, in 2007, he employed Ian ‘Pinhead’ Lange to focus on the sporting side of the Workwear business.
One of the main reasons I have chosen this unlikely sounding place as my favourite gunshop is because it is so unashamedly a working man’s establishment. The usual sales format at Workwear is as follows: a customer wanders in looking to buy a new hi-vis jacket and a box of chemical-proof gloves. Tempted by a deal on airgun pellets, he pops those in his basket and makes his way to the counter to pay for it all.
It is at this point where the true glory of Workwear is seen. Leaning against that counter, you will most likely find someone like ‘Big’ John Buckingham, a local part-time keeper. He will be chatting away to ‘Deadly’ Darren Sizer about the merits of RC Atomic cartridges. Pinhead will be adding his two penn’orth to the conversation and all three will be taking the mickey out of that scruffy bloke who lays hedges and writes for Shooting Times.
The customer joins in the conversation and, before he knows it, he has bought a slab of RC and a smart checked shirt. He has also gleaned which marsh is shooting well near Haddiscoe and whether the pigeons are on the rape yet.
Ian describes Workwear as a “care in the community facility for wildfowlers and rough shooters”. He isn’t wrong. You don’t go to Workwear merely to buy stuff, you go to socialise, to share a joke and information. This is a place of gossip and rumour spreading. You will find both experts and fantasists leaning at that counter, with Pinhead holding court over them all. Going to Workwear to talk about shooting is nearly as much fun as going shooting.
This is not to say that the store is all chat and no substance. Deep within the part of the shop known as ‘the Den’, there is usually a good selection of guns, mainly second-hand. A ‘smart’ gun here would be a Browning for £1,200, but most on offer are within the working man’s price range. Ian sells two or three guns a week and the same number of air rifles and pistols.
If you are after cartridges, the choice is limited to RC and Trust. Little surprise really — around these parts, people don’t waste time and money on fancy marketing and gimmicks. They find a brand they trust and stay with it. Sporting clothing is largely a choice of Deerhunter or Jack Pyke, giving the buyer two price points with brands that are trusted thanks to trial in the field. If you want smart wellies or boots, you can have Le Chameau. There is no point here in pitching one brand against endless others.
If you ask Pinhead whether he does discount, his reply will be “no”. If you ask him whether he is prepared to barter, that is a different story. Workwear is a product of its location and the people who live here. Oak panelling, leather club chairs and smart assistants garbed in plum-coloured trousers, gilets and loafers do not cut the mustard here. Nor would a pushy salesman be tolerated, either. You buy things through trust and suggestion, not hard-nosed sales.
This shop is a slice of unashamed East Anglia. It is honest, friendly and workmanlike — and I love it.
Workwear (East Anglia) Ltd
Airfield Industrial Park