The World of Prestat61
Prestat’s most famous customer is arguably Roald Dahl, author of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and master of the short-story with his Tales of the Unexpected. When my half-brother Nick Crean and I acquired Prestat in October 1998, we would never have guessed how apt the collective title of Roald Dahl’s stories would be.
It was nine months after we first became Prestat’s owners that I discovered the secret room. Some of the bulbs in the Piccadilly shop’s chandelier needed replacing and I was bemoaning the lack of a ladder to Peggy Cramer, the manageress who had worked for Prestat for more than
‘But we have a ladder’, said Peggy. ‘It’s in the basement store-room.’
‘No, Peggy,’ I replied with boss-like irritation. ‘I know that basement store-room backwards and there isn’t a ladder down there.’
‘Yes, there is. Not in the room you first go into but the one behind. There was a flood a while back so we locked the door into it. But it’s our space alright. There’s all sorts in there, old packaging and the like.’
‘Old packaging!’ I cried excitedly, hardly believing what I was hearing. A secret room – at least to me – full of unknown treasures!
I took the key and went down to the store-room and then across to the door which I had mistakenly assumed led to the nightclub. I thought back over the past months. I was sure that I’d heard noises emanating from behind the door: the tinkling of champagne flutes; the soft laughter of party-goers; the drifting sound of music. I turned on the torch, slipped in the key and found myself unlocking the history of Prestat…