The only place for a unique retro style
August 22, 2008
Antiques dealer Al Baynham has brought nostalgia back to the Oxford Road with his funky items from the 50s to the 80s.
He gave Paul Robins the lowdown on his retro shop…
The business: mid20c, 530 Oxford Road, Reading, (0118) 958 1058, 07760 218749, www.mid20c.co.uk. Open 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday.
The boss: Owner Al Baynham.
What is your business about? “Mid20c is Reading’s first and only retro shop selling furniture, homewares and collectables from the middle of the last century.
“We stock a huge range of items including art, ceramics, clocks, glass, lighting, rugs, textiles and wallpaper.
“We also provide an interior design service and can source items for film, television, theatre and more recently themed bars and night clubs.
“In the last few months we have supplied funky retro items for Hollyoaks, the BBC and local theatre groups.”
How did you start? “I used to run a shop in the Bristol & West Arcade called the ‘Retro Centre’ but I closed it at the end of 2004 and moved to Australia.
“I returned in 2005 and opened a small warehouse in St George’s Road, but operated mostly on the internet through my website and on eBay.
“However I wanted to rebuild the retail side of the business so I opened the new shop in Oxford Road in May this year.”
What do you make of the location? “Oxford Road has always held a certain appeal for me, but the shop itself was the clincher. It’s on a corner location with houses around it so it stands out from the crowd. We have a two-hour parking zone on the opposite side of the road as well.
“The new Tesco was also a draw for me because it improves the footfall along the road.”
Who are your customers? “They range from students to the elderly, who want retro items to use rather than for purely aesthetic reasons.
“One old lady bought a coffee table to replace one she had 40 years earlier.
“But the classic buyers are dual income couples in their 30s and 40s looking to furnish their homes.”
Have you always loved antiques? “Yes. Dealing and collecting is in my blood. I used to bunk off school when I was 14 to go to cattle markets and buy job lots of things just to earn a quid or two. I have been totally hooked on buying and selling ever since.”
What is business like at the moment? “It’s been very promising. We end the first month in profit and we have continued to grow month on month.
“In many ways the best time to start a new business is during an economic slowdown because you are forced to run a tight ship and watch the money.
“The next year or so will be difficult for everyone, but I believe we can benefit from it.”
Do you enjoy being your own boss? “Yes – it’s something I’ve always done. I’m kind of a free spirit and I have travelled a lot.
“But I love buying and selling; I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world because my job is my hobby.”
Do you think the appeal of mid 20th Century items will last? “I hope so – remember that what is in the shops today isn’t that different design-wise to what was around years ago.
“Customers have said to me if you go into John Lewis or House of Fraser and buy a fancy table and chairs it will set you back nearly £2,000.
“But someone can buy an Arkana set from me for £700, enjoy it and like it and in five or 10 years who knows what it will be worth.”
What’s the secret of success in business? “Always follow your heart. I have never sold anything I wasn’t passionate about.
“For me it’s not about financial gain, it’s about doing something you love.”