IT’S going to be a special year for one Henley-in-Arden company, which has been trading in the village for 100 years.
As Johnson’s Coach & Bus enters its centenary year, the owners are proud that the business has stayed true to its roots. The Johnson family, which founded the company in 1909, are still at the helm and continue to operate from their Henley headquarters.
But times have changed since the Warwickshire outfit opened for business in the Edwardian era. When the Johnsons started, the company relied on horse-drawn transport. Today, by contrast, they can call on a fleet of 80 vehicles and employ 200 people.
The year 2009 is also a personal milestone for John and Peter Johnson - it’s 30 years since they took over the reins.
“It was our grandparents who set up the business,” said John. “It started with just a horse and carriage and has grown from there. All that time we’ve stayed in the area.
“I remember growing up on Henley High Street when the business was based there. It was a small operation back then - the drivers used to eat breakfast with us - now we’re the biggest employer in the village.”
What a difference a few decades makes. The brothers’ mother, Joan, recalls what it was like when there was only a handful of staff.
“It was hard work with long hours and each day was a challenge to survive,” she explained.
“We were always short of drivers so I took my PSV license and became one of the first lady coach drivers in the country. It really was all hands to the pump.”
With ten children between them, John and Peter are optimistic that the company will remain in the family - although they won’t force the youngsters to enter the trade.
In the more immediate future, the business is planning a series of charity events to mark its 100th year, with all proceeds going to Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.