I’ve been a fan of The Peanut Vendor, (TPV) a vintage furniture shop specialising in the early to late 20th Century, for many years. I remember when around 2010, I first stepped into this little gem of a shop in Newington Green. Back then they were a unique find and I always visited with a real sense of anticipation and excitement of bagging some small treasure.
Fast forward to 2015 and they made the big leap of opening a large showroom in Victoria Park/Bow area, together with a coffee bar. I finally managed to visit this new emporium and asked Becky (one half of this venture) some questions.
TPV was founded in 2008. Where did the idea for it come from and what made you take that first step? Well the idea was really that we wanted to do something for ourselves. We wanted to run our own business and build something of our own. Having always been employed, my partner and I started thinking about ways in which to do it. Ways that our previous jobs would give us some experience. We’d always worked for small businesses and always been passionate about collecting design and furniture. So it seemed like the obvious way to go.
What was your first step and when did you move into your first premises in Newington Green? First step was a business plan. It was to sit down and make a profit and loss forecast and figure out whether we could live off the buying and selling of furniture and home-ware. After that we started putting together a more detailed plan and thinking about what we wanted from a shop. We moved into the NG shop in October 2008 and opened a month later.
Have you had many challenges on the way? Many, but that’s business and that’s work. You swap a set of problems from being employed to another set to being self employed. You also gain some pro’s though. Cash flow is the main thing. We never really had any big investment, it’s been a slow process growing the business, but it’s been organic too. Which is nice to know. All the mistakes you put down to experience, you have to make them to know not to do it again.
Have your tastes as well as your stock changed over the years to reflect demand and supply? Our tastes have most definitely changed. When we started we couldn’t buy the higher end products that we wanted to and we were still learning and educating ourselves about design (still are!). We always try and react to the interior design climate. It’s been 8 years so we’d like to think that everyone’s tastes have changed in that time. As far as demand and supply goes, we do try to buy items we know will sell. You have to. Ultimately though you have to be proud to look at your shop and the items within it. So we won’t compromise too much if we don’t like something anymore, we don’t buy it.
When did you first think of expanding to bigger premises? About 2010! In hindsight the 350 sq ft space in NG was a bit petite for a furniture store. We had a growth spurt in 2013 and it started being impossible to do our jobs well in that space. We could only open 2 days a week because the rest of the time we were working on the furniture. It was a one in one out sort of situation with customers and furniture pieces. It became impossible to grow the business any more so we started looking for the perfect premises.
Your new much larger showroom includes a coffee bar. Was that a natural progression? Part of the new store was about accepting that this job is going to be our job for a long time. It’s our lifestyle, so we want to make it as interesting as possible and we wanted lots of people around.
As well as the coffee bar we’ve started to stock new bits of design, plants, gifts and home accessories. It’s a big space and it’s further out than the last shop. We really need to give people a few reasons to visit. You can spend quite a bit of time at the new store. Having lunch, buying plants, gifts and sorting out items for your home. It’s a destination shop now and the fact that it’s by the canal and Victoria park means that there are even more reasons to visit.
What’s next for TPV. Can you share further dreams? Just to continue to grow it and refine what we do.
Do you have any tips for people who would like to make the leap to start their own thing but are afraid to take that first step? Just plan it really well. It’s not rocket science but you have to be practically minded. A realistic business plan is worth its weight in gold.
The Peanut Vendor
6 Gunmakers Lane
This post will stay live until Thursday 24th February 2016.