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Thursday, 22 April 2021
ANTHONY GALLOWAY is the proprietor of Vintage Look, a treasure trove of antique and vintage collectables set in five rooms within the Old Armistice in Hart Street, Henley. Born and bred in Manchester, he worked as a bus driver before getting married and moving to Woodley in 2003. He now lives in Henley with his two-year-old dog Aero, a Shichon. He’s a keen sportsman and supports Manchester City.
Describe your business
We are an antique, vintage and retro business operating as a collective. The items we sell are sourced from 20 traders within the Thames Valley and include brass and copper, silver and jewellery, vintage glassware, pottery, watches and clocks, paintings, furniture and other interesting collectables.
How many people does it employ?
I have no employees as such. All 20 traders are freelance and we have several volunteers here.
What did you do before you started this business?
When I was working in Manchester I became interested in collecting and trading in sports memorabilia. After moving south, I initially drove buses part-time but also began to develop the scope of trading antique and vintage collectables. I had some space in what was then the Henley Antique Centre in Reading Road. Then it moved to a large premises in Market Place Mews and I took over the business. We moved briefly to a shop in Market Place because of the redevelopment of Market Place Mews before moving to our current premises in 2016.
What was your objective?
I didn’t really have one. I had started a journey but didn’t know where it would end and had no particular destination in my mind at the time.
Who or what influenced you?
Nobody, I just thought it was the right time to do it.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
There are a few people with experience who I lean on and learn from and who “have my back”.
What would you do differently if could start again?
Probably nothing. Even when you do something wrong you learn from it.
What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on your business?
Like other non-essential retailers, we had to close during the lockdown. I was able to furlough myself and took the opportunity to sort out the shop.
How is your business doing?
Thankfully, we are doing well. I think last year was adversely affected by the uncertainty of Brexit. People were anxious and weren’t spending. Since the lockdown restrictions were eased it seems people want to cheer themselves up so we’ve been busy.
How do you market your business/service?
Primarily through social media. Occasionally I advertise in the Henley Standard and we visit trade fairs.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
It gives a lot of happiness to people, both traders and customers. I especially like to see traders doing well.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Pressure and meeting the overheads.
How important are online sales?
We do have a website and we do service international customers but the shop is more important. People come in to browse around and if they see something that they like they make an impulse decision to buy.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
To be patient and tolerant and not get too down when things go wrong or get tough.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
If you rent premises, make sure you have a good landlord. Check all the contracts for utilities. Pick the right location. Believe in yourself and what you do and prepare for a roller-coaster ride.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Learn to move with the times and go with it. Stay interesting and don’t stick to any particular format. Believe in what you are doing.
What’s the secret of your success?
I’m not sure if I am a success. The important thing is the variety of our stock, traders, volunteers and customers.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Taking too many things to heart.
How organised are you?
I’m very organised about most things but not all — there’s never enough time.
How do you dress for work each day?
Smart casual mostly.
What can’t you be without every day?
The crossword every morning.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
Sometimes just a sandwich in the shop and sometimes I go out for something.
Do you continue to study?
Life! This job provides continuous study and I’m learning something every day about furniture or silver or jewellery etc. Every day is an education.
What do you read?
Books that take me somewhere, writers’ travels especially. The Times every day and the Henley Standard.
How are you planning for retirement?
I probably never will retire because in this trade you don’t need to. Anyway, I’d hate to wake up in the morning with nothing to do.
21 September 2020
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