The life and times of Bhrunil Patel, co-owner of Magnum News of Marylebone on Thayer Street
Interview: Jean-Paul Aubin-Parvu
Images: Orlando Gili
At heart, I’m a Wembley boy through and through. I have always lived there. I have one brother, but we come from a big family—my dad has four brothers and one sister, so I have lots of cousins. As a boy I was into sport, computer games and playing with my friends. We’d always be off riding our bikes or else out in the street playing cricket and football. I was fairly good at school. I wasn’t the best student but certainly wasn’t the worst and I always liked technology, design and making things. I was good at art as well, so I studied it for both GCSE and A level.
I went on to do a degree in multimedia design at the University of Hertfordshire. It was an excellent course and university was great fun, especially the nightlife. But I was still living at home and so had to commute every day, which wasn’t so fun. During my university years I worked part-time at B&Q. One day, after I’d graduated, I got a phone call from my manager there telling me about a kitchen design job that had come up. I thought, well, I’ve done a multimedia design degree so why not give it a go and see what happens.
I ended up being a kitchen designer for seven years. I was based down in Wandsworth, designing kitchens for private clients and also for developers who were buying properties to either sell on or rent out. Meeting so many different types of people really helped me to grow as a person. One particular kitchen over in Beaconsfield was amazing to design. The client owned this massive new-build house and wanted a full-on kitchen with a utility room. It was an old-fashioned style kitchen, but with state-of-the-art gadgets and appliances all hidden away. It was the kind of thing you’d see in a magazine. That was definitely one of my best designs.
But there comes a time when you realise you’ve done everything you can with a big company. Plus, they had implemented new software that allowed anybody to design a kitchen without the need for a specialist designer. At that point, I decided it was time to look around and see what else I could do.
Taking it on
My uncle had been running a shop at 17 Thayer Street for 28 years and my brother Nikhil kept asking him if he wanted to retire and sell up. In 2015 we got a call from my uncle, saying: “I have decided to retire. The shop’s yours if you want it.” So we took it on. My brother and I had only been looking after the shop for about a year when the landlord decided to redevelop. That was a sad time for us, especially with my uncle having been there for so long, but luckily we found an empty shop just down the road at number 10.
We actually exchanged on the 14th February 2017, which was a lovely Valentine’s present to ourselves, and then opened a few weeks later. Although it’s me and my brother who own the shop, I would like to give a special mention to our number one staff member, Nimit. Basically it’s him and me who run the place.
At Magnum News of Marylebone, we offer a wide selection of boutique magazines as well as your standard monthly magazines and daily newspapers. That’s definitely due to my auntie, who worked with my uncle at the previous shop and loved magazines. We deal with about four different suppliers and try to have all the high-end fashion magazines, for example. We stock all the usual drinks, sweets and chocolate, plus a range of American confectionery which has proved very popular. We sell sandwiches and now also stock vegan and free-from products, because the market seems to be going in that direction. Being an off license, we also do a great selection of top end whiskies and vodkas.
This shop really does feel like a part of the community. Many people were upset when the previous shop closed, and when this one opened we received overwhelming support from our customers. We try to give them the best possible service—the kind you’d expect from a shop in Marylebone. For me it’s all about giving a personal experience; really getting to know my customers and which products they like. I am a people person and that’s what I love most about running the shop. This job is hard work—it’s the long hours that really get to you. I do anything from 12 to 16 hours a day. It wouldn’t be for everyone. I think it’s my customers who keep me going all day—I always try to be happy and cheerful for them.
We have loads of regulars. I have got to know some of them really well and they’ve actually become good friends of mine. I have only been here in Marylebone for three years, but already I know far more people here than I do back home in Wembley. It’s such a buzz coming to work. I’ve had a few famous faces popping into the shop, including David Gower, Gary Lineker, Victoria Beckham and Dermot O’Leary. But everybody gets treated exactly the same.
I do love Marylebone. I just think it’s such a nice, peaceful area. Everybody seems to know each other. I recently took my son to the bank and pretty much every second person we passed in the street said hello. My son turned to me and asked: “Daddy, are you famous?” And I replied: “They are all your daddy’s customers. I’m not famous, they just know me—they just think I’m a nice guy.”
I work long hours, but I do like to get away when I can. In the 10 years I’ve been married, we’ve been on at least three holidays per year. We’ve been to the Maldives and America, and to Paris more than 10 times. My wife and I love Paris. We always bring the kids, so obviously we visit Disneyland while we’re there.
Our two young boys keep us entertained at the weekend. They love going to the park, going for walks and playing sports. Pretty much every weekend we are out in the park or off 10-pin bowling or watching a movie.
I’ve had a big passion for cars ever since passing my driving test. My first car was a VW Golf and over the years I’ve basically been buying cars, probably more than I buy clothes. I’ve had a Pirelli Edition Golf, which is a limited edition, three or four BMWs, a Mercedes and more VWs. I’m currently driving a zero emissions Nissan LEAF, so a fully electric car. And I love it. That car is an absolute joy to drive.