Tower Radio Stores

A short history 1932- Present Day

Simon & Idah’s Wedding. With his parents Myer and Sarah

Tower Radio was founded in 1932 by Simon Shoffren and today it is run by the third generation of the family Bernard Litman. Simon was born in London in 1899 of Russian parents Myer and Sarah. The extended Sophrin family, (their Russian name) left Russia during the period of mass exodus of the Jews from Russia at the end of the 19th Century. Sarah was pregnant with Simon at the time so was born after their arrival in the UK.

The families were dispersed around the country and it was in 1927 in Glasgow that Simon married his wife Idah. Idah was born in Latvia but was issued with a Norwegian passport during an amnesty after the family arrived in that country. Simon’s father Myer died a few months after Simon’s wedding.

The extension of original Tower Radio Store. Corner of High Street and Larup Avenue c1950’s

Simon was a Radio Mechanic who had three shops in Glasgow but was badly hit during the Depression in the thirties. Simon moved his wife, mother and daughter south to Canvey in 1932 to open a store. The family stayed with his Aunt Sonia. Sonia was born in Russia in 1894 and married to Leonid Galperin. Sonia had arrived on Canvey in 1927 and has her own history on the Island which can be read here.

The business was set up in 1932, originally being called Tower Radio Stores, at 43 High Street. The shops at 41 and 39 were added later. The original shop was built on stilts and the name ‘Tower’ comes from a wooden Tower that was in the grounds behind the shop. It was already there when the family took it over but we are not sure what it was used for. Is this possibly an old water pump?  The family lived in the accommodation above the shop.

No 39 High Street. Tower Pram Stores. c1950’s

Times were hard during the war so the family looked for ways to earn extra money. Simon drove a Taxi on the Island, and as well as the radio shop they also hired out Radio sets, prams and invalid chairs to visitors. They hired out radios to the Armed Forces for half a crown a week. (about 13p in today’s money) A new branch of the business was started where they sold prams and other baby equipment and one of the shops at the Larup Road site was used just for this purpose and called Tower Pram Stores.

The Tower Radio shop now in the High Street on the corner of Larup Avenue was rebuilt on the site about 1979. This time the building has just the one floor. (See the picture in the gallery below)

Other members of the extended family lived nearby in the San Remo bungalows across the High Street from the shops. Sonia Gilperin was living in No. 1 San Remo. Just after the war, Barnett and Lily Shoffren, cousins of Simon were living at No.2 San Remo where their daughter Pamela was born in 1946.

1930’s View from outside the shop in the High Street. The shop is on the left on the corner of Larup Avenue. Across the road in the distance is Canvey Supply and closer on the right are the San Remo Bungalows. See picture below of a similar scene 2010

Simon died in 1948 and the business was run by his wife Idah and daughter Miriam. Miriam married a few years later to Michel Litman. Michel studied hard to learn the business and joined Miriam and her mother.

Miriam remembers the floods of 1953. They woke to the sound of the siren. Miriam spoke to the telephone operator to find out what was happening and was told ‘The back wall has gone’.  Water was fast coming up Larup Avenue to the steps of the shop. The shop however was not flooded and became a place of refuge for people arriving by boat from the flooded areas. The family used their taxis to evacuated islanders to King Johns School in Benfleet and they were at the school when the Queen and Princess Margaret made their visit.

The Opening of the store in Furtherwick Road 1979

Their shop in Furtherwick Road was opened in 1961. The name was then Tower Radio and was a Radio, TV and prams business with the prams occupying the upstairs. The upstairs had a mezzanine floor and only extended across part of the building as can be seen in the pictures below. We are very fortunate to have some of the pictures of the shop with others from the opening and other functions.

Miriam and Michel’s son Bernard first worked for the business in c1973, learning the business from the floor up. Michel died in 1988 and although Miriam has now semi-retired she is still quite active in the company. Bernard now runs the company which has spread far beyond Canvey Island. As well as the two shops on Canvey, they have stores in Hadleigh, Rayleigh and Southend as well as further afield.

The New Store in Furtherwick Road opened 1961

Many thanks to Miriam Litman and Pamela Winborne for all their help.

Comments about this page

  • In 1947 I was ten years old and my best friend was Barbara Rogers, whose dad had a mens outfitters shop opposite the Tower Radio store in the High Street. On November 20th of that year, Barbara and I were invited into the store to watch the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on television – neither of us had ever seen television before. We went through to a room, that looking back now, was possibly a storeroom, in which was the television with a tiny screen. It was just magical and I’ve never forgotten that day – I even mentioned it in my memoirs! I always think of Mr.& Mrs. Shoffren on the Queen’s Wedding Anniversary. We have a Tower Radio shop in Harlow, where I now live.

    By Irene Bailey (nee Woodhouse) (17/08/2010)
  • I lived in Goirle Avenue just off Larup. I have clear memories of these shops and the family that ran them. I recollet my sister and I carrying a large and heavy accumulator battery to the shop to be charged up. When I was about 14 the owner actually asked me to help out with their book-keeping. Not too sure how much I actually was! Still they were kind folk and when I married they even sent me a lovely wedding present. When I worked for Barclays Bank on Canvey I remember Michael Litman bringing in his baby son and showing us proudly how well he read. Didn’t Mr. Soffren lose a leg?

    By Shirley Thomas (12/03/2011)
  • This is the very step I got told off by the lady occupant for stepping on when I was 4 yrs old!

    By David Bullock (13/03/2011)
  • Such nice memories of Tower radio- I purchased a pram from this store in 1970 for my first child. I used to live in the Winter Gardens area, Central Ave- My dad moved to Little Gypps – sadly both my parents have passed away but I do visit the island when I possible can as I now live in Cornwall. Thank you to all who share pics and information on this site – well done to all.

    By Heather Woods ( CLAYTON) (09/09/2011)
  • I worked for Tower when I left school in the very early 80’s, and I remember Mr & Mrs Litman very well in deed (probably a lot better than Mrs Litman would remember me!). Great people to work for, and by God they knew how to run a business. Bernard was MD in those days, and I was lucky to spend a few days working with him in the office, and have a real respect and admiration for how real proper business could be done, harsh and firm, but very clear and subsequently successful. Thinking back, I was close to useless in my job, always getting things wrong, but I have to say having now run my own business now for over 22 years, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the family and Tower for showing me how things should happen at an early age – even if I struggled to do it for them myself back then. Good old Tower….. the memories flood back.

    By Phil Meacham (07/08/2012)
  • During ww11 we relied upon an old radio to keep up with the latest war news. It was operated by an accumulator which we had to get re-charged at Shoffren’s radio shop. Yes, the accumulators were quite heavy and were made of glass and were filled with acid which worked to create the charge and store the electrical energy. I think that they had to be re-charged quite frequently,depending on the use. Great care had to be taken when carrying them to Shoffren’s for exchange. Ours got lots of use as we followed the news and listened to all of those old comedy shows on the B.B.C.

    My Mother took me to Roger’s Outfitters,which was opposite Shoffren’s, during the War to get a new school cap. I was trying on several, looking for the right size. I found one that fitted perfectly but my Mother picked up another cap and took it over to the cashier. Anyway, we were halfway home when I realized that I still had the other one one on my head. Ah well, these things happen, it was wartime.!! Gerald Hudson.

    By Gerald Hudson (08/08/2012)
  • Living on Elm Road in the 50’s and 60’s, I well remember the building of the Furtherwick Road branch of Tower Radio. Almost opposite was a smaller TV and radio store, Ullman and Son, (a photo of the old shop sign, revealed during later alterations appears elsewhere on this site). The son in question was my, sadly departed, uncle Len Ullman. After the death of his father, Len wound up that business and was employed by Tower Radio as a TV engineer, in the days when this meant more than replacing one printed circuit unit with another. Len, in fact, learnt much of his electronic expertise in the RAF, during the war, fitting and maintaining radar systems on combat aircraft, a fact of which he was justifiably proud. I am reminded that a photo of Len, with his new Tower Radio company car, appeared on the old Canvey Island web site. Perhaps a link could be made to this history. I’m glad to say that Len’s wife, my mum’s sister Peg, still lives on the Island and I had the great pleasure of joining many members of our family, celebrating her 90th birthday at the Oysterfleet in February of this year, shortly before she went on a n Arctic cruise in search of the Northern Lights.

    By Tony Maguire (08/08/2012)
  • I remember the old shop well, I also remember Miriam, I believe that she was in the same year as my brother Len (born 1930) we also used to get our accumulators from there to charge up the radio, and they certainly were heavy, especially when you got home to find that the charge had not taken and had to take it back again

    By Brian Hall (14/11/2012)
  • My Mother ran the Pram Department for Mick and Miriam, her photo is second row down on the left, pictured with my Father, their names where Gladys & Ernie.

    By Tony Matthews (15/11/2012)
  • My aunt Gladys Matthews, checking a new arrival of stock. 

    By Joan liddiard (19/05/2015)
  • the people in this photo are: from left Olive Elms, Ernie Matthews, Gladys Matthews and Sid Elms.

    By Joan liddiard (19/05/2015)

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