Saturday, 31 July 2010


Day sixteen began , surprise surprise, with a man up a ladder. (There are plenty of those around in my world these days). The lovely, and very talented Shaun returned to complete the sign. All that was needed was the border.

The red tape masked the impossibly thin pin stripe, a task I would not recommend after a big night out. Happily Shaun looked completely sober and nonplussed by the whole thing.

After the tape was peeled and Tadaaaaaa! We have lift off!

Meanwhile I had thought it might be nice to have a desk of sorts against the wall behind the counter so Wanda drove Steve to B&Q and bought a huge plank of wood and some brackets which he cut, then fixed to the wall and painted up with primer. (clever clogs!)

While he was doing that we propped open the doors to let in some air using the two fire extinguishers which hang on the wall were Steve had just built the desk. There was a knock on the door and who was there? Only the fire safety man come to do an inspection. Needless to say we were told off(very nicely) for using the fire extinguishers as door stops. Doh!

Steve also finished putting up the remaining picture rail.

By then, we had plucked up enough courage to go and introduce ourselves to the local vintage style garden shop who, we were a little worried, might think we were setting up a pitch on their turf. They were very nice and seemed to relax when I explained that a few garden gnomes and bepansied teacups would never possibly compete with their extensive and rather 'planterly' stock. The nice guy from O'briens Hi Fi arrived mid-chat, looking rather ruffled. He explained he had uncovered a 'viscious' and dangerous scam to which most of the shops on Durham Road had fallen foul of: Welsh John and the phantom flier drop. Apparently he goes around to all the local shops explaining that he is keen to help local small businesses promote themselves and that for a nominal fee he will go around and drop any promotional material through well chosen letter boxes. Everyone feels sorry for him and so have leaflets made and pay him a fee to do the drop. He then takes the packet of leaflets to the next shop and asks if he can leave them there while he drops yours off, only he never returns. He then takes yours to the next shop etc etc.
It was hilarious as the O'brien guy had gone to every shop in the road and uncovered no less than five different shop's leaflets that had been squirreled away in that manner.
We had a good laugh and will definitely look out for ol' Welsh John when he comes our way.

After a quick lunch we went to the lock up again! This time we brought a dresser and several boxes of stock as well as odd bits and pieces back to the shop. When we arrived back to unload what should we find but the 'drug dealers from upstairs parked in our parking, AGAIN! Grrrrrr...
May the flees of a thousand camels...and all that!

This is the state of play in the back room (known fondly as the graveyard).

and this is the state of play in the shop, and we were supposed to be opening the next day? Not a chance!

So we decided to put in a few more hours and worked till 10 last night. At 9.45pm a drunken Saffa fell through the shop door, who we had never met before in our lives. He was wielding two, 9 roll packs of double ply loo roll and looked like he had been rung home from the pub by his wife and told in no uncertain terms to get his a*** home and not to forget the loo roll she had sent him out for two hours before.. "Can I help you" I asked " Yah man. What are you guys doing in here?" was his rather slurred reply. " We are opening a shop. "Yah man I can see that, but what is it exactly you are selling?" "Vintage and antiques" we replied.
He then took a slow deliberate look around and uttered these unforgettable words " Jees, I hate this f******ing sh*t man! It reminds me of my grandmothers. Maybe my wife will like it hey. Good luck man" and off he went. Nice.

So at 10 pm two exhausted and rather 'bruised' souls left after a 14 hour working day feeling a little down cast but here are some snap shots of what we left behind.

But don't worry, we won't let one drunken bloke dampen our spirits for long!

Have a wonderful Saturday everyone.

Friday, 30 July 2010


When does a shop become a shop or more specifically, your shop? I think I can honestly say it is when your name goes above the door. I found Shaun Grantham in the Yellow Pages. His father was a traditional sign writer for 40 years. His career began when he was a young man and he got his first job at the Bentall department store in Kingston-upon-Thames in the 60s. His job was to paint the tickets and promotional material for window displays, back in the days when computers occupied whole rooms and things were made by hand. He then signed up for military service and was trained as a sign writer painting the "MP" onto the metal helmets and army vehicles etc. Forty years later and his son Shaun is using those very same skills to paint shop fronts, long boats, pub signs etc.

Shaun laying out the sign for us to approve and to place

The back of the sign is charcoaled, then taped on the fascia board.

Viewing the sign positioning, from across the road.

A ghostly hint of the final product.

The first painted element - the number (the postman will be pleased).

Next, the "Nicholas"

Shaun is left handed and does such a superb job. The paint is imported from America and comes in little tins with vintage style sign writing labels. It is an enamel paint.

Next, the "Steele"

Followed by the email address and the beautiful art nouveau inspired border


Tomorrow, Shaun will complete the border but I am sure you will agree, what an improvement!
Several people popped in to see what was going on as up until now the shop has just looked busy but not very distinctive. I think we can safely say, we are now on the map. Hooray!

Meanwhile; inside
Steve put up some picture rails.

I stamped and tied tags on all the bags.

And of course I undid all the displays I had done the previous day to do them again. (much to Steve's dismay and many "stop faffing!"s)

We had an early night last night as Shaun had worked so hard (ha ha). I can't wait to go back to the shop this morning and see the sign. It all feels very real and yesterday it finally hit us, we are a shop in West Wimbledon and people will know us and visit and hopefully love us and shop at us. What a responsibility and a joy!

Happy Friday all.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


Well, well, well. What do we have here? My lost shopping bags! I ordered these retro styled shopping bags ages ago. In fact, yesterday morning I was just wondering what to do about the mystery of the missing parcels when the postman walked in. "Oh. you are here" he said looking confused. I replied; "Yes. We have been here for two weeks." It turns out he has redirected all our mail and parcels because he "couldn't find a number on the shop"- Helloooo!?! I had to restrain myself from saying "It's the same number its been for the last 30 years. Just- because- a- shop takes- down- the- old- sign- to- put- up- a- new- sign- doesn't- mean- the- number -changes." I couldn't bring myself to shout at him either because he looked genuinely confused and quite sweet (if a little dim) all at the same time, so I phoned the depot instead and had a moan to them.

Of course, all Royal Mail seems to do these days is apologise. "Sorry for the strike, sorry for losing your parcel, sorry for throwing your "fragile" marked parcel over the gate, sorry for the delay, sorry the postman lost your card" etc etc... I will have to rely on the good will of my suppliers to pay the postage again. As I calmed down to a mild panic I realised, among those parcels were my shop bags and ribbons to fix my price tags to everything. I was about to renew my complaints when a van pulled up outside the shop and TADAAAAA! My bags arrived via a courier company who do know that we are, and always will be, number 78 Durham Road, West Wimbledon! (rant over.) These bags are special as they are solely to celebrate the first week of our opening and when they run out, I will be using lovely vintage brown paper bags instead. Who says the postman always rings twice?

Now, the pressure was on as we had the traditional sign writer booked to paint the shop sign the following day so Steve had to get the shop front fascia, wood- filled, sanded and two coats of Farrow and Ball 'Slipper Satin' applied. It was a bit of a marathon for him but I think you will agree, it looks wonderful.

While Steve slaved away, I started dressing some of the display, my what fun it was.

Take a look;

Finally the habberdashery drawers have....habberdashery! More to come as we unpack other boxes from the lock up.

I put together some mismatched sets of china tea cup and saucers.

A lovely colour, 1950s book complete with original dust jacket and fold out map in the back pocket.

My old toast rack becomes the new holder for my 'by-the-meter' ribbons.

Some old friends being aired before a special Duck egg blue shelf (painted by yours truly) is mounted on the wall for a vintage toy display)

Vintage French Espresso cups and a Carlton ware teapot from the 30s.

Dressing the shop counter was fun however;I am going to wait to bring the jewellery to the store for security reasons.

The fake cakes are courtesy of a lovely Lady from Carolina, USA. She has a whole shop filled with the most gorgeous, hand made fake cakes! I love her and she is so sweet and thrilled to be selling her wares in London. It is one of the rare exceptions to my British-made policy but one which I am sure you will agree is well worth breaking 'the rules' over.

I had to skidaddle as I was teaching last night so I left my poor husband painting in the twilight.
A lovely new student who lives in West Wimbledon joined us for the first time last night. We were painting and she mentioned she had seen a poor guy up a ladder on her way to work that morning and when she came home, he was still up the same ladder. "Were do you live?" I asked her. " Just off Durham Road" she replied. "That would be my husband-Steve' I replied and we all had a good laugh. The class was so much fun after that and I think the shop was spoken of more than the art for the rest of the evening. I feel very lucky and humbled to have such supportive and loyal students.
After class, Steve and I took Roxy for a walk and stopped off at the shop to have one last look for the day. It looked quite sophisticated in the moonlight. Steve had done a fab job and It felt like the building was holding its breath for its make over the next day. So were we, and we were not to be disappointed.