Abi Harper, Director at Harper in Cobham
Ever found yourself looking to buy something special for someone special in Cobham? If so, the chances are that you you’ve graced the doors of longstanding jeweller, Harper. Although it’s likely that you don’t know the story of Abigail Harper, one of the directors at Cobham’s most sparkly family businesses. So, rather than explain the difference between a carat and a crown, here you’ll find out about her former life as a BBC producer, a professional hockey player and her commitment to the Cobham community.
Cobham’s changed so much over the last 18 months. Thankfully, Harper is one of the staples, having been here for over 40 years. Peter, my father, started the business in 1976 – long before I was born and back when I’m sure Cobham was unrecognisable from how it looks today.
My brother, Adam, joined the business straight after leaving university. However, I wanted to forge my own path, so spent a number of years as a BBC sports producer before eventually joining Harper in 2013.
I loved working at the BBC, but I prefer working as a team rather than in competition with my peers; you really had to keep looking over your shoulder in that environment. I think the team player in me stems from years spent representing Great Britain at Hockey alongside my brother. Back then, we’d constantly be touring the world and attending major events, which was an incredible experience. Maybe the constant travelling is why it took so long for me to settle into the family business – but I got there in the end.
I’d left the BBC and had begun freelancing, so I asked dad if I could use the back area of the shop as my office. I worked here on weekends as a teenager, so I’ve always found it a comforting place to be. Before long, I was working there more than I was freelancing. Not long after that that I’d given everything else up and gone full time.
The world of professional sports is a small world. This, combined with the number of sportspeople who live in and around Cobham, has resulted in Harper becoming the go-to jeweller amongst athletes, which is something I’m really proud of. As a family business, people trust us, which is really important - and in the world of jewellery, reputation is everything so you have to stay on top of your game.
My dad always said that I’d never be able to work for anyone else – and he was right. These days he’s mainly retired, however he still helps out from time to time. I’ll be getting married soon, so he’ll be back in the shop whilst I’m on my honeymoon.
During the pandemic, everybody came together. In many ways I think it triggered a renaissance with the local high street. The community seemed to become more proactive in making locally-focussed decisions. Much of it was down to the fact that many people couldn’t – or wouldn’t – go to London, but it’s had a really positive impact on Cobham High Street and I hope that continues.
We really want to be a part of the Cobham’s future. Being a part of the community is what gets us up every day. Jewellery is really personal, too. It’s not like most consumer goods. There’s a sentimental factor to it, and much of it is passed down through the generations. So, just as the jewellery we’ve sold over the years will stand the test of time, I’m hoping that there will be many more future Harpers to continue the business for generations to come.
Harper. 14 High St, Cobham KT11 3DY