A few years ago, we were honoured to receive an industry ‘Icon’ award for our spiked Carving Dish, a product that is now well into its 6th decade of life and remains unchanged since the day we began making it. The story is worth telling.
The brothers who set up Dexam had a long association with a local landowner. Two of them had been flatmates while studying accountancy in London. As farming became more mechanised over the 1950s, the landowner wanted to continue to provide employment for some of his farm workers whose work was being made redundant by technology. So in around 1962 the three of them teamed up and set up a factory together on an industrial estate in Chichester. Working with an industrial designer from the car industry, they came up with a range of (then) quite futuristic stainless steel tableware items and, after a few years, were selling the ‘Chichester’ range all round the world. Fashions changed, but the underlying quality and utility of some of their products never did.
The subsequent decades were not kind to British manufacturing, and cheap imports gradually forced the Chichester factory away from producing housewares and into the world of sub-contract engineering. All the while, the Carving Dish survived intact, as we British are very particular about our roast dinners, and very discriminating when it comes to what we use to carve meat on. The only problem the company has ever had with it has been that it is so well engineered that no one ever has to come back and buy a replacement. A few years ago, our Managing Director was invited to speak at a major industry conference, and used the occasion to look at the many ways that our world had changed since the Carving Dish first came out in the early 60s.
When the factory finally closed in 2013, we spent months finding the right person to make the Carving Dish for us, and it is still alive and very much kicking. The important thing is not so much the heritage (although that’s good in itself), but the idea that if you do something right the first time, and stick with it faithfully through thick and thin, it will probably outlive us all!