(Above photo - The Special Antique Relationship )
Since the inception of Canonbury Antiques in mid-60s London, the United States has always been a very important market for us through the decades. Just as the leaders and policticans of both countries like to tout the 'Special Relationship', we feel the same idea exists for our business. In fact, as the nature of the business has changed over the years, the different relationships we had with American clients can be seen to symbolise the very nature of the evolving antiques and interiors business over time. Of course, it also helps that we - sort of - speak the same language.
(Above photo - Bobby Moore lifts the Jules Rimet. Canonbury Antiques opens it's doors )
The first inception of Canonbury Antiques can be traced to 1966 - the glorious year England won the World Cup for football (soccer) for the first and only time - when founder Martin Worster Snr had a stall at Bermondsey antiques market just over the river via Tower Bridge in South London. The market ran on Fridays from 6am tll 12 noon as it still does today, almost sixty years later. Bermondsey antiques market has to be one of the most famous London antiques markets alongside Portobello Road, Camden Passage, Alfie's on Church Street and Northcote Road. At the time Bermondsey was popular with American dealers looking to find bargains to send back for the US market.
(Above photo - Bermondsey Antiques market )
From Bermondsey Market, Martin graduated to the first official Canonbury Antiques showroom on London's Blackstock Road, a stone's throw from Arsenal FC Football ground and back in North London close to where he grew up. At the time Blackstock Road was a mini-mecca for antiques, as buyers from all over the world visited London and the UK to source wholesale goods for their own businesses. The routine back then for Martin Snr was sourcing goods in the UK from Monday to Wednesday on buying trips up and down the length and breadth of the country, often filling up 2-3 trucks a week with antiques. Then for the rest of the week the goods would be sold to the overseas buyers who flocked to the area. There seemed to be an insatiable demand for British antiques and furniture at the time, fuelled no doubt by the cool assocication of London being the epicentre of the Swinging Sixties. It was Cool Britannia I. Fab, groovy, hip...man.
(Above photo - Cool, groovy, fab... Canonbury Antiques emerged from the Swinging Sixties )
At this time Martin Snr met one of our first longstanding clients, a gentleman from Houston, Texas named Bill Peyton (RIP), the founder and owner of Peyton Place Antiques. Having purchased a selection from our shop he agreed to take goods on consignment from us on a commission basis for his auction. This relationship endured throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s and signalled how our American cousins couldn't seem to get enough of English antiques and furniture.
(Above photo - Canonbury Antiques serving the US: You Bet! )
Simultaneous to this relationship the advent of container shipping technology allowed the business to ship wholesale goods to America easily and cheaply. Martin Snr explains:
'At this time metal sea containers had been introduced in place of the old method of shipping in wood crates. This allowed us to pack the antiques directly ourselves. This proved very successful as the Americans had an insatiable appetite for English antiques for many years ahead . We sent two 40 ft containers to Bill Peyton per month. One for Houston and the second for his new auction house in Dallas.'
(Above photo - A universal thirst for decorative arts and interiors )
As we ventured into the 1980s our business looked towards Florida, Washington DC and then California. Martin Snr explains:
'George Brodsky (RIP) from Miami, Florida was another good client. He had a son called Mark Brodsky who had just graduated from law school in Washington DC where he lived . Mark came to see me and was so keen to get involved in antiques that we became partners and opened Antique wholesalers in Howard Avenue, Washington DC and we had a successful period of 10 years in business. We also opened Antique Wholesalers West in Santa Monica, California which my cousin Derek ran as a third partner.'
Throughout the years we've had relationships with some amazing characters through supplying dealers all over the United States, from New York to Washington State. Many of them are still good family friends today. As things have changed of course, the main thrust of the business is now through online sales and we have largely moved away from wholesale to retail. The trends and tastes have also changed and we do our best to navigate this - having been in business almost 60 years we feel we have done a good job at this and are grateful to our American friends for helping us immensely on this journey.
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