Agapanthus Interiors


Next in our local creative feature series, we chat with Zoë Rigby, owner and co-director of Stockport based antique dealers Agapanthus Interiors.
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Ruth Rust
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Hello Zoë, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you start by telling us a bit about the vision and ethos of your business? 
My partner and I run our antiques business out of our shop in Stockport's beautiful historic quarter. We specialise in sourcing, restoring and installing antique lighting and furniture. The majority of our stock is sourced from France and Belgium and we are careful not to chase after current interior trends when we are sourcing so we are able to provide a one of a kind and unique alternative to high street and mass produced homewares.
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What was your background before launching your business? Is it an area you already had experience in, or something completely new and unknown?
I used to work in the NHS as a mental health professional and my plan had been to continue in this career by studying clinical psychology.
Then, about 11 years ago, I met my partner who was running an antiques business in Levenshulme at the time. I started helping him during busy periods, at weekends and on big installation jobs, and developed a real love for the work. The business was growing, and then we had the opportunity to expand and move the shop to Stockport, and at that point it just made sense for me to commit to the business full time.
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Tinley Tan
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Did you have a specific business plan in place when you started off, or have you found things have developed more organically?
 Because of the nature of the work it's difficult to predict and plan for sales and bigger installation jobs, so on a daily/weekly basis it's quite hard to have a rigid business plan. We certainly don't work to sales targets as a high street retailer would.
However, we have set clear long term goals for the development of the business. When we originally bought the store in Stockport we only purchased one shop front, but we knew there would be the opportunity in time to expand to the shops on either side thus extending the store. We also had a long term plan to renovate the residential flats above the retail premises as short term rental properties.
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How important are the values of sustainability and slow living in the way you run your business?
Because we trade in antiques, the whole focus of the business is about restoring and reinvigorating existing pieces, rather than fuelling the production and consumption of new products. This is inherently a much more sustainable way to run a business, but in addition we try to promote a slow and considered approach to purchasing with our customers. It can take quite a long time to find and restore the specific item a buyer is looking for, so there isn't really a lot of impulse buying. Helping a customer find the perfect piece that they have been searching months or even years for is the most rewarding part of the job.
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Luella Plum
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How do you try to reflect these values of sustainability and slow living in your personal life? 
When I was working with the NHS I ran some mindfulness sessions for patients and I have tried to carry these methods and principles with me.
I usually have a lot of different appointments and jobs to juggle so I find it really helpful to have a detailed schedule written down in my diary so I know exactly what I need to achieve in a week. Having my schedule on paper allows me to clear my mind of jobs and appointments which aren't taking place for another few days and lets me be more present and focus on the specific task at hand, knowing that I have planned in an appropriate time to deal with other responsibilities.
Running your own business, it's easy to let the lines between work and home life get blurred and spend your evenings responding to emails and doing admin. But I have a young family and that makes it even more important to try and stick to a schedule so I can also be present and focused during family time, rather than distracted by thoughts of work. 
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Talk us through your normal day to day. Do you have a regular routine, or is there a lot of variety depending on what you’re working on?
My day always starts with a family breakfast and the school run, after which I usually head to the shop to check in with our team.
Before the pandemic, I had a fairly even split between days spend working with customers and on projects in the shop, and days spent away on sourcing trips or working on installations.
We have a fantastic team who are more than capable of taking care of things when I'm away, but I still try to stay really hands on with the day to day of the shop so I can support the team and keep that face-to-face contact with our regular, loyal customers.
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How has your business been affected by the pandemic? Have you had to adjust your strategy and have there been any unexpected challenges or positives to draw from your experience?
The main challenges have been closing the doors to our shop during lockdown periods, coming hand in hand with a reduction in the number of home installation jobs we have been able to take.
We have adapted by offering more virtual shopping sessions where we can discuss what a buyer is looking for, show them around the store and talk them through the stock we are currently holding. We have also started taking on more sourcing commissions where a buyer describes what they are looking for and we reach out and work with our supply base to find the perfect piece. 
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Can you tell us anything about your plans for the future of the brand?
Our next project is completing the renovation of the two flats above our shop and office building. These will available for short term rentals and we are working alongside our friends at local restaurant Where The Light Gets In to promote a dine and stay package where visitors from out of town can enjoy an incredible tasting menu and then retire for the night in a beautiful and calm space just a short walk away. 
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You can find out more about Agapanthus Interiors and shop their lighting and furniture online at:

www.agapanthusinteriors.com

Zoë is pictured wearing pieces from our AW20 collection:

Ruth Dress in Rust

Tinley Jumpsuit in Tan

Luella Dress in Plum

Perla Dress in Olive


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