Couples expand antiques business as collecting craze gains lockdown momentum

Henrietta Lewis, Alan Knight, Alf and Wendy Faulkner at the launch of Aspal Antiques

Henrietta Lewis, Alan Knight, Alf and Wendy Faulkner of Aspal Antiques and Mid Suffolk Mondays Trade Shows at Stonham Barns Park - Credit: Keith Suffling

Two enterprising couples have launched their second antiques centre at a countryside park as demand from collectors soars.

Aspal Antiques is based at leisure, retail and holiday park Stonham Barns, which is based at Stonham Aspal, near Stowmarket, and follows on from the success of a similar venture in Diss.

The store will be selling antiques, vintage and retro pieces including architectural salvage.

Couples Wendy and Alf Faulkner and Alan Knight and Henrietta Lewis already run the Diss Emporium antiques shop.

They snapped up the new 3000sq ft centre at Stonham as they sought to expand the business ahead of the easing of lockdown restrictions. 

As well as selling stock which they source themselves, they also offer antiques collectors and traders the chance to rent cabinet space from them at a monthly charge so that they can offer a wide range of antique pieces in one space. 

Aspal Antiques is also set to launch regular Mid Suffolk Mondays antiques, vintage and salvage trade fairs which will run on the second Monday of the month at Stonham Barns Park Showground.

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The showground, which is set in the 140 acre leisure venue, has space for up to 100 traders and will be launched on Monday, May 10, running from 6am to 2pm. 

Former pub landlady Mrs Lewis said fulfilling their dream to turn their hobby into a business began two years ago.

“In 2019, after a spell in the pub trade where we ran Framlingham’s Castle Inn for five years, Alan and I opened an antiques centre in Diss.  We are both keen antique and vintage collectors and thought we would pursue a long-held dream to turn our hobby into a profession. 

“We were thoroughly enjoying helping customers to find the perfect pieces for their collections and home interior refurbishments when the pandemic arrived in the UK.”

Despite three lockdowns, the four business partners have managed to expand their business with the help of a Covid-19 business support grant.

The joint business has been helped by an online sales boost which the partners believes may be down to collectors having more time to browse for luxury items like antiques during the lockdown and more spare cash after eating out and high street shopping was curtailed. 

The partners have also seen an increase in demand for architectural salvage items during lockdown, with buyers sourcing reclaimed building materials and salvaged period features as property renovations and house moves take off. 

Mr Knight also put the resurgence of interest in antiques down to more time spent at home. 

“People are looking to enhance their interiors and gardens with statement pieces and collections,” he said. “We like to think of our business as an antiques hub for people who are interested in an eclectic mix of pieces. With the new trade shows we will be making Mid Suffolk the venue a meet up venue for traders too.”