Gill Norman, owner, Acreman St Antiques & Interiors.
I have run antique centres for over 10 years and when opening my newest venture, Acreman St Antiques & Interiors in Sherborne, I decided to include our Flame Lily Tearoom on site as we are not in the town centre.
By offering homemade lunch options as well as loose leaf teas, coffee and homemade cakes, we are making the antiques centre more of a destination for people.
Often customers like to take their time making a decision on a purchase and they will use our tearoom to sit and relax with a drink.
This means that they are still in the building and are far more likely to decide to buy. Often, once they have left the antiques centre, the potential sale is lost.
We do have people that come to us specifically to use the tearoom but of course they often can’t resist having a look around the antiques centre and potentially buy something.
Our dealers also use the tearoom as a place to meet clients and conduct business.
We find that the buzz of people talking and enjoying themselves makes for a wonderful atmosphere and adds another dimension to the centre, which would not be the same without it.
Kathryn Mandry, market manager, Petworth Antiques Market.
For us, not having a coffee shop works really well for two reasons.
First, location. We’re in the centre of Petworth, a town known for its lovely cafes and restaurants as well as its antiques shops. These places will always do coffee much better than we could, and we’re all looking out for each other. We point people towards the nearby coffee shops and they direct their customers to us.
Secondly, floor space is at a premium. With a waiting list as long as I am tall we could fill our centre twice over – why designate a section to hot drinks when it could be filled with lovely things that people could buy?
All this said, one of the ways we cultivate clients is by giving them a homemade hot drink. If we give it free of charge, we don’t have to apologise for the quality of the coffee (or the cup it comes in) and that makes the customer feel like they’re on our side of the counter.
In the morning we brew in a proper percolator and the smell wafts out across the whole shop. Our first customer of the day always gets a cup.
We do it in a sensible way. We never fill a cup up to the brim, so they can wander around as they drink it. The last thing we want is for them to forget why they’ve come, but this way they can continue browsing.