SUPPORT OUR SHOPS: Long Sutton Antique Centre - a store full of the unexpected

BOX OF SURPRISES: Long Sutton Antique Centre where outside are owner David Whitwell and trader Michelle Manley.  Photo by Tim Wilson.  SG130517-317TW.
BOX OF SURPRISES: Long Sutton Antique Centre where outside are owner David Whitwell and trader Michelle Manley. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG130517-317TW.
  • Telling customers the whole truth is an art

For more than 40 years the name Whitwell has meant all things antique and collectable in Long Sutton.

Today, David Whitwell is keeper of the family name at Long Sutton Antique Centre in London Road.

FAMILY TIES: David and Michelle Manley of Long Sutton Antique Centre.  Photo by Tim Wilson.  SG130517-315TW.

FAMILY TIES: David and Michelle Manley of Long Sutton Antique Centre. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG130517-315TW.

Home to more than 30 dealers from across the country, David provides individual units where traders can show their wares for display and sale.

He said: “This year, we’ll have been here for 20 years which us quite an achievement,

“We’re open seven days a week, apart from Easter Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

“My family has run antiques shops in Long Sutton for nearly half a century and when a chance to move into the centre came along, it was a case of natural progression for us.

You get a real buzz when you sell something, but I also like being surprised by what people bring in to the centre to sell

David Whitwell, owner, Long Sutton Antique Centre

“Some people say ‘there’s too much to look at so I’ll have to come again, while other customers have said ‘you’ve had a massive tidy-up in here’.

“But although the internet has made it easier to buy things, the only way of getting something that’s different is by going to an antiques centre.”

In 2012, the British Antique Dealers’ Association conducted an annual survey of members which found that 320 of its members were responsible for annual turnover of £822 million.

Of particular interest to David, the survey also found that shops and galleries accounted for half of all sales, while 63 per cent of respondents said that just nine per cent of their total sales were done on the internet.

David said: “We sell quite a lot of old furniture as a lot of people realise that buying it means getting something that’s been well-made.

“But it’s very difficult to judge what sells and, in the case of 1950s furniture, getting hold of it isn’t easy.

“That’s why, as dealers, you have to move with the times.”

Michelle Manley, one of the traders who has a unit at the centre, said: “I like to go for quirky, funny, old and modern pieces, as well as things that make you smile.

“There are lots of things that get people to think ‘that’s a nice piece’ which is why I like to have a bit of everything.

“I moved to the front of the centre recently and it’s something I’m very pleased about because even when the centre is shut, people can still have a look at my stuff.”

Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Iceland, USA, South Korea and Japan are just some of the countries both dealers and customers have come from to see the treasure trove of goods at Long Sutton Antique Centre.

David admitted: “We’ve sold things to all four corners of the earth, but my ideal customers would be Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the Sultan of Brunei.

“I love it and you get a real buzz when you sell something.

“But I also like being surprised by what people bring in to the centre to sell on for them.

“We sometimes get schoolchildren who come in and buy odds and ends, while other customers can buy anything from old farm machinery to a Rolex watch.”

Michelle added: “We get a diversity of people in here, making it more interesting for them to come in and have a look.

“We also have sales representatives from all over the country, along with Korean and Japanese dealers who come to England and go round certain areas of the country, depending on how the pound (in sterling) is doing.”

Some of the UK’s best-known auctioneers and antique dealers, thanks to the increasing number of TV programmes about the industry, have paid a visit to Long Sutton Antique Centre.

James Braxton, Charles Hanson, Paul Laidlaw, Philip Serrell, Mark Stacey and even TV actress Amanda Donohoe have been guests of David’s at the London Road base.

David said: “The antiques trade is exciting because you never know what you’re going to buy or sell and that’s why people like coming in here.”

At times, David has broken bad news to customers who thought they had bought a masterpiece at a bargain price.

He said: “Someone came in thinking that they had an original painting of John Constable’s The Hay Wain, a national treasure.

“They asked what it was worth and I said ‘if it’s the one at the National Gallery in London then hundreds of millions of pounds’.

“But the customer went away unconvinced that their painting wasn’t the original.”