On Sunday next I officially get the keys to my new (to me) shop. And you may well ask why.
It's my second go at a shop. The last one I had was in a sleepy lane way back behind the back of beyond. Its issues had issues. The neighbours were tricky, trading as they did based on stock scavenged from the tip and 'displayed' on the pavement. Don't mention the dog poo. And the landlord and I also failed to see eye to eye on the electricity bills. I thought I was vastly overpaying while he thought the opposite. In the end, for lots of reasons, he took the shop back..
In the interim three years I did a lot of fairs. And as I roamed the country, I found I was constantly looking at the shops for rent. By everywhere, I mean, erm, everywhere. I was in Harrogate eyeing up premises. A handy commute from Exmoor. In Bristol, Frome, Newark, Yeovil, Dorchester ... I just couldn't help myself. I even went round one in, of all places, Tiverton, sandwiched between a tattoo parlour and a charity shop, and opposite the local version of Poundland. Desperate measures.
So when this place came up, there was precious little thought required. My stock is all over the place at the moment: some 2 hours away, and the rest 40 mins. It just means hours on the road in uneconomic travel that is rarely recovered in terms of profits. Frustration when you remember the photographs that you somehow didn't manage to take before the item went out. And then a query comes in that you can't answer, so then you remember that you deliberately didn't take pictures because putting your own stock on your website, or even instagram, when its 2 hours away doesn't really work. Because if something sells, you have 90+ miles to go and fetch it for despatch. Somehow it just doesn't ever quite work as smoothly as it should. And frankly, even 40 minutes is a bit much for lower priced items.
And as I looked lustfully at a truly dilapidated shop in some godforsaken arse-end town, I realise I want my stock here - within reach. So I can show it, touch it, clean it, picture it, measure it, describe it, post it and then hopefully pack it lovingly in tissue and bubble wrap. And to do it all in my way. I want to talk to customers, and yes, even discuss the eternal “has TV ruined the antiques business” question with the 78th customer this week.
I want to get up in the morning and put on a jacket and head to The Shop. Turn the key in the lock, turn the lights on, rearrange the window and wonder what the day will bring. Will it be the idiot who thinks its big to offer you 40% of the ticket price, or will it be the delight of someone who comes in with a smile and stays for an interesting conversation, or the person who brings in the opportunity to buy well, or best of all the customer who buys something. You never know, but I can't wait for that sense of anticipation.
The shop is in Dulverton on the edge of Exmoor. I'm not sure if its actually known as the gateway to Exmoor, but it is in fact the gateway to Exmoor. Come in from the South end and you are not on the moor, exit by the North end and you are. But you wouldn't do that, because you'd have passed me and ignored me and we can't have that. No we can't.
I'll be there Wed-Sat for sure and possibly more. I may even open in Sundays in the season if there is demand. And when I'm there I can also enjoy Dulverton, a small town but full of independent traders and one that is facing a renaissance. My word, it presents a very cheerful face to the world these days. Its a cracking little place. If you never have, try it, you won't be disappointed. And if its a while since you did, come back. Its changed.
And then you can also come and see me too. And you'll be very welcome. But remember, appearances are deceptive: I blame the mould, or perhaps the wind changed one day. My face only LOOKS grumpy. Really I'm Mr Happy.