Friday - 19 December 2014

The dealer who took the plunge by calling a Holt to finance

28 February 2014Written by Joan Porter

People who change their lives by entering the trade often share something in common – they show what can be done with a passion for antiques plus drive, determination and chutzpah.

Sometimes redundancy money can help too, which was the case in this story of a Suffolk-based ex-corporate bank manager turned antique furniture dealer.

Robin Dunkley worked in financial services for 21 years and loathed it for most of that time. Following the crash of 2008/9 he took both courage and redundancy and launched Holt Antique Furniture at a Lomax antiques fair in East Anglia in 2010, running this business from his home near the very desirable Georgian market town of Holt in north Norfolk, as well as online and standing at fairs.

He said: "I have always been interested in collecting, starting as a boy with railwayana - pre-nationalisation - on the back of receiving a LNWR [London and North Western Railway] bridge plate as a gift and when I had saved £5 my nan or mum would take me to an antiques fair where I bought lamps, cap badges, doorstops etc.

"Gradually that collection grew and my tastes and pocket changed. When I started earning I still bought these things, as I do to this day, but my main passion was and remains oak and country furniture pre-1800 - this started when my wife Nicola and I bought and furnished our first cottage."

Historic Interest

So successful has Robin's business been that he has expanded and opened a shop in Little Walsingham, Norfolk - since the 11th century, the villages of Little Walsingham and Great Walsingham have attracted many visitors to the shrines of the Virgin Mary and, now, to a major pilgrimage centre.

"We had too many people visiting our home and needed somewhere in a good location with historic interest and this place with its medieval timber-framed buildings and 1000-year history was the ideal choice and remains so," he added.  

Two years on, and at the start of Robin's fifth year of trading, turnover has grown to six figures and the business is in profit to the extent that he is negotiating to take on additional premises.

His financial background has surely stood him well in the growth of his business. In a final comment, one with which dealers will be so familiar, Robin said: "With the antiques trade come very long hours and the salary is nowhere near my previous career path but one thing I can truly say and that is 'I love it and wish I had done it sooner'."

Holt Antique Furniture specialises in 16th-early 19th century oak and country furniture, treen, delftware and other decorative and ecclesiastical pieces.

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