Bailey’s Antiques recently opened on Paisley High Street, and in the lead up to its opening, their window displays caught my eye. I love a browse of unique items and artwork, which Bailey’s Antiques have in abundance. I had a chat with owner Ben Bailey about how the shop came about and all that goes on there, as well as what his plans are for its future.
Can you start off by just telling us a bit about Bailey’s Antiques and how it came to be?
So, my name is Ben Bailey, hence where the name is from, and my grandad was into antiques and things like that, and my dad as well. My grandad passed away a couple of years ago so when it came to naming it I just thought that would be nice. I didn’t want it to sound big-headed but it was more a tribute to him and my dad, really.
So I’ve been self-employed, buying and selling antiques for about six years or so. I’ve worked for a few auction houses and things, but decided to go self-employed, just because I wanted to work for myself. But I’d been selling online, mostly vintage and antique watches and jewellery, smaller things that I could post. And then, before lockdown, I came into the previous shop that was here, UpHub, and rented out a small space from them, one cabinet actually, just to sell some jewellery from. That went quite well so I rented out a bit more space, and in the end I had a good sized area that I was selling from and doing quite well. Then COVID hit and UpHub shut down unfortunately, but I really liked the idea of this place, not just because I was doing well selling things, but because it’s nice to be part of the community. My girlfriend works at the museum, we’ve just had a baby, so we’re quite settled here and I want to be part of Paisley. It’s really nice to be part of Paisley High Street especially. I ummed and ahhed for a long time and I just thought: ‘I’m just going to go for it.’
So I opened the shop myself and 80% of it will be me personally selling antique and vintage furniture and jewellery. And it isn’t all antiques, that word is a bit scary, as most people think that means it’s expensive but most of my stuff is vintage and quite affordable. There’s a few more expensive items downstairs but I don’t want it to be a snooty place, because I’m not very snooty. I’m quite messy and disorganised so I want it to be cluttered and interesting and for people to come in and have a look. We’re open now but we’re still kind of in the process with a lot of stuff to bring in.
I’ve always wanted a shop, because it’s just a nice thing to do, especially now I’ve got a daughter, it’s nice to have a family thing. But, in the past I’ve worked with different charities and I did want to do something community based as well. So, I spoke with Business Gateway, across the road, and there’s something called the Creative Hub Grant. If you meet their requirements, they help you out financially, and their requirements were what I wanted to do anyway: I wanted to rent space to artists, I wanted to have workshops here, I wanted to have various different exhibitions. Through their grant, they subsidise my rent here for the first 18 months, so that’s really useful for me starting off; one, because it is a new business, two because it’s strange times due to the coronavirus, so I don’t know if I would’ve been able to do that without them, or I would’ve been too nervous to do it without them.
A lot of what I’ve been discussing has been about sustainability and supporting local businesses and creators, particularly during the current situation; this is clearly something at the heart of your business too. Can you talk a bit about that?
So, most of the stuff downstairs in the shop is things I’m selling, but I also rent out space to different artists and other antique dealers. So that means we’ve got things like gift cards and prints, ceramics, plants, lots of different handmade things, as well as the antique and vintage stuff. Also, Feel The Groove, the record shop, who also shut down unfortunately, they’ve come in and helped us by bringing in their vinyl to sell as well, which is already downstairs. The downstairs space is a retail space, but we’re also looking at having different things going on, for example life-drawing classes, and there’s a group on Instagram called Picturing Paisley, who are a group of amateur photographers who’ll also have an exhibition space downstairs too. Currently we’ve got an artist in the window exhibition space, Ryan King. I’m going to leave that window free to feature different artists each month or so, and I won’t charge them anything for that, I’ll just maybe take a commission if they do sell something. I really want it to be a creative space.
And then upstairs I’m having artists in to use the studio space to work from. We’ve got three previous Glasgow School of Art students who have not long graduated and were looking for space, and Glasgow’s really expensive. I think people get put off by Paisley because it’s a bit further out or, I’m not sure why, but everyone who’s come has enjoyed using this space. Paisley High Street feels nice, there’s a lot going on now.
Also, Ania, who owned the previous place UpHub, now rents space from me for her upcycling business, Little Bird’s Restoration and Upcycling. We have Mark, a photographer who uses the space, we’ve got current Glasgow School of Art students coming to use the space soon, and an older gentleman who is going to rent the studio space soon as well. So it’s great, we have a good mix of people, a mix of ages and backgrounds. It’s great to have it be a local hub for Paisley but I wouldn’t want to exclude people coming to use the space from elsewhere as well. I want it to be an inclusive place, I want it to be somewhere people can come and chill out. I’ve called the shop Bailey’s Antiques, but it’s more than that really, I don’t mind if people come and chat, or if people want to come and use a desk for a day, that’s fine. I think also because UpHub gave me an opportunity by letting me rent a bit of space from them, which has led to this obviously, I’m quite indebted and grateful to them, and I’d like to do the same for other people. I’m really flexible, I just want this place to grow, in any direction really, I’m sure not all my plans will work and I’m sure things I haven’t planned will happen too, and I’m looking forward to that.
In terms of sustainability, it’s funny, the antiques trade is really green, and sustainable, because you buy old things and sell old things, so there’s zero waste, I don’t throw anything away, I don’t buy anything new. So it’s one of the oldest green industries there is, but it never ever sells itself that way, but it should do really. It’s basically recycling, isn’t it?
You were talking about using Bailey’s Antiques as a community hub, and it seems there’s quite a few places doing that around here recently, and it’s quite a good thing to see. How are you looking to expand on that?
It feels great, yeah. And I really want to link up with all the other businesses as well. I know that ReMode across the road, and Mill Magazine are doing a fashion show or something along those lines, and they were talking about using this as a venue for it as it’s a bit bigger than their place. I’ve spoken with Shelter next door, the charity shop, as sometimes they’ll get more expensive things in that maybe won’t sell in a charity shop, but I might be able to sell them in here. I wouldn’t take a cut there because it’s a charity of course, but I’m trying to link up to get that sense of community. I really like Paisley, I’m obviously not from Paisley but it reminds me a lot of home as I’m from a similar sized place in England, that used to have a rich industrial heritage and then kind of died a bit, sadly. Paisley, after going for City of Culture, although they didn’t get it, did get funding off the back of that of course, and the museum will be great when it reopens as well, which I think will busy up this end of the High Street again. There’s so much history attached to Paisley, but also it seems there’s so many artists and creatives and musicians, and it would be really nice for me to be part of that. I did do some work with Roar, the charity on Glasgow Road, and they do history groups so I’m looking to link up with them as we sell lots of historical items. There’s a lady who’s a storyteller and she’s going to just come in and pick up an item and tell a story about it.
One of my biggest aims and dreams, which I’m going to try and do in a few months, once I’ve settled in, is to have an auction here. I think to bring an auction house back to Paisley would be really nice, as I used to work in auction houses, so I’ve got a bit of experience. I thought what I would do initially is maybe have a valuation day, an Antiques Roadshow kind of day, where people would bring things in and I would just tell them what they’re worth, just for a bit of fun. And then, if that goes well, I’d maybe organise another one, with a mind to sell the things at auction. I’ve got to learn not to get ahead of myself though!
How have you found the first week of being open on Paisley’s High Street?
It’s been great, everyone who’s come in has been really positive as well, and I’ve been pleased with how it’s going so far. I’ve had people reaching out through social media and I don’t usually use it a lot, I’m a bit old, but Instagram especially has been really good for connecting with people and getting great feedback. People have come in and asked if it’s okay to look around and the answer is always yes, browsers are always welcome. I want to be a friendly business. I think in these times especially, the High Street has suffered a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with hairdressers and vaping shops, but there’s loads of them, and I think there’s something to be said for having interesting shops on the High Street, and destination shops. If this becomes established as an antique shop or a vintage shop, people will travel to it, because I would. As someone who buys things to sell, I travel to Glasgow, Edinburgh, some smaller places, for these shops, so I’m hoping it can draw people in. Henderson Property, who are the landlords here, again I’m doing a shoutout, but they were keen for me to have it because they are invested in and care about Paisley’s development. They could’ve rented it five times to hairdressers or nail shops or vaping shops, and that’s fine, those shops are needed, but I think they were interested in having a kind of one-off shop; there isn’t anything like this on the High Street. Antique shops are usually in the middle of nowhere or in some backstreet in Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Are you hoping then, that introducing a shop like this, which as you say there’s not much else like it nearby in Paisley, will spark an interest in antiques and such for the people who are here already?
I think so, and I hope so, and I think it seems to have done that. And it’s been a good age span as well, you get older people who can remember the stuff: ‘Oh I had one of these when I was a kid’ and then I’m going to start selling vintage clothing as well, because I like it, and there’s a university here as well and I don’t think we’ve tapped into that yet, we don’t see many students in here, for some reason, when it was the previous shop as well. So I’d like to tap into that market and sell stuff that captures their interest, like the vinyl and vintage clothes and vintage guitars.
You touched on this earlier, but there’s kind of a strange paradox between people thinking second-hand stuff is all cheap and not great quality, and people thinking antique shops are just full of really expensive items; do you think you’ve found a good middle ground in what you’ve collated? And do you think that’s quite a challenge to combat those perceptions?
I think it definitely is a challenge, actually. I think you’re right. I come from a working class background, I used to go to lots of car boot sales and my grandad was a kind of Del Boy, but as I’ve grown and worked in auction houses and all that, I live quite a middle class life now, even though I’m like ‘I’m working class!’ So I myself would’ve been nervous to go into some places, and I hate that feeling, feeling like you don’t belong somewhere. We live in a time where unfortunately there’s lots of different issues that people face; particularly race, but also gender, sexuality and things like that at the moment. Poverty is quite a big one as well, and I think that feeling of not quite belonging is a big problem there. So I definitely agree that it is a challenge and I really want this to be accessible to everyone, no matter how much money you’ve got, and I don’t want to put people off. I thought for a long time about what to name it, and I did name it ‘Bailey’s Antiques’, but it’s a lot more than that, and I’d say 50% of what I sell is vintage. I want to sell a things at a range or prices, from 50p upwards.
I don’t want it to look like a junk shop at the same time. I don’t want to step on the toes of charity shops either. So it is hard, but the selling point of this place is me because I’m buying things that I like. If it works great, if it doesn’t, it’s my fault. I’m gambling on the fact that what I like, other people might like as well. I think with any small business you’re investing in the people who run it, because they’re creating the shop or cafe that they would like to come into, and that’s what I’m doing. I’ve got midcentury stuff that’s quite trendy at the moment, more industrial design pieces: filing cabinets, 80s stools.
I have got some more expensive items, but to me, my favourite thing in the world is buying something for £1 and selling it for £5. It’s great, I get more excitement out of that than spending £100 on something and selling it for £200 because it’s about rehoming things. I see something in an auction or a charity shop and it catches my eye, so I buy it and I maybe put it on Instagram or put it in the shop and make it look nice, and then whoever I’ve bought it from makes money, there’s a profit for me obviously and then it goes to a good home, or it goes to another dealer and they sell it again. There’s probably things I’ve sold that are worth more than I’ve sold them for, that happens. It is a fine line. I think I’ll learn as I go what sells and what doesn’t. I’m not stubborn enough to only sell things I love, of course I’ll bend to what people ask for, but I do think with small businesses, you’re investing in the person.
Anything else you’d like to say to potential new customers?
We’re friendly, everybody’s welcome, no matter how much money you’ve got, as I say the range of prices is 50p upwards. There’s a bit of everything here. Furniture, jewellery, books, music, clothing, pictures. Also, I’d love to have feedback from people, if there’s something you’re looking for, I can try and find it for you, if there’s something you want to do in the space, as long as it’s safe, we can try and do that too. As I mentioned, there’s a free exhibition space for artists, so if anyone wants to hold an exhibition, get in touch, probably through the Bailey’s Antiques Instagram or Facebook page is the best way to do that. Just come in, say hello, introduce yourself and have a look around!
Written by the talented Rachel Campbell:
“I’m Rachel and I’m a 20-year-old student studying English Literature and History. I’ve always enjoyed writing and after getting involved in the student newspaper during my time at university, I’ve found a real interest in journalism too. I’m looking to write positive stories about what is going on in Paisley, and help readers learn more about the businesses and activities that are so close by. I’m interested in sustainability and how we can support local businesses whilst also doing our bit for the planet. Along the way, I’ll hopefully write about a wide range of topics: music, fashion, theatre, art, health and wellbeing, and anything else that is happening in Paisley. I’d love for anyone to get in touch if they’re interested in having me write an article about their business/charity/event/