How we came to be in the antiques business

Allan Blackburn, Owner of GB Antiques Centre and Lancaster Leisure Park
Allan Blackburn, Owner of GB Antiques Centre and Lancaster Leisure Park

Well, the other day was a very, very special one for us here at GB Antiques Centre. Almost exactly 25 years ago, my wife, Gloria and I opened the centre for the first time.

My grandfather was so influential on my life (and I know I have mentioned him often in the column), he deserves to be mentioned especially when I think about the path my life has taken and my passion for antiques.

He loved antiques and collecting books. A few weeks ago I mentioned his book collection was sold at auction for £85,000 so he knew what he was doing!

He was a successful entrepreneur with a spinning and weaving business in Preston, which was later to become Somic PLC. I worked at Somic starting in sales and eventually become joint managing director.

However, the lure of the antiques business made a daily pull on my life. At the time, nearby Newhall Lane was a real antiques trove and, during my lunch hour, I used to walk up and down the street, past the centres and shops. Sometimes, I would buy something, but mostly I just loved looking and learning.

I met and married Gloria who also loved antiques and many weekends and holidays were spent browsing round shops, centres and fairs throughout the UK.

When I left Somic in 1990, we had no doubts about what to do next. In August 1990, we opened GB Antiques Centre and, that same year, we were thrilled to be featured on Granada’s Flying Start programme. We intended to open only at weekends and run antiques fairs, but we were doing so well.

Within six months, we took the plunge and opened every day - we’ve never looked back!

Now, 25 years later, it is a family business employing my wife, myself and two of my children and the centre is one of the biggest in the country, housing 100 individual dealers and welcoming over 200,000 visitors a year.