Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

Timewarp Collectables- Quirky, diverting and even confrontational

It is the second to last day of the Sheffield Antiques Quarter’s celebration of National Antiques Week and Sheffield Unchained has spent the week visiting some of the independents in the Quarter to find out the stories behind their businesses. Joe Lachowicz, owner of Timewarp Collectables tells us about his love of design and the alternative…

I don’t want to be mainstream, I like the idea of being quirky, diverting, even confrontational or bewildering.”

Joe Lachowicz, owner of Timewarp Collectables on Abbeydale Road has always had an interest in art and antiques. He said that ever since being a student he has collected antiques and interior design items that are not fashionable or mainstream:

“I’ve always had an interest in shopping for nice things that aren’t just run of the mill and I have always had an interest in art and Antiques. I suppose it started with my scholarship at arts school, then Arts College and then studying History of Art at university.”

Joe has had a varied career; first working in museums and then in the recreation management of sporting facilities and education. Joe was also an athlete and played national volleyball for twenty-two years. He was captain of the Great British Universities and England Universities teams and after that he went on to coach the universities teams. Joe retired from volleyball in his forties and decided to focus his efforts on his love of arts by running an antiques shop.

Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

Joe Lachowicz at Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

The first Timewarp was a cooperative at the Nichols building in Shalesmoor. Joe said he had about forty people under his wing and that it was a loose co-operative that they staffed themselves:

“We didn’t want to be under the thumb of the landowner. So we bought ourselves a big space and ran it independently without the tyranny of a landlord.

“We found the collective co-operative model was a fabulous entry for people who wanted to taste the business. They would hire a few shelves, a stall or an area and we would reduce the rent, which was offset against time served dealing with customers. So that was a really good grounding for anyone who wanted to come into the business.”

Timewarp then moved to Langtons Antiques in Heeley as Joe said he struggled to renegotiate a better deal on the area he wanted. Joe then moved Timewarp to Abbeydale road where he has been running the shop on his own for eight years.

‘I don’t like the word ‘retro’’

Joe said he has always dealt in 20th Century antiques, however he said he does not like being classified as a ‘retro’ shop:

Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

“It is original stuff from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s so it is not really retrospective. It would be retrospective if it was an imitation of something from the past period, which is how I understand the correct definition, but it seems the word ‘retro’ has now become a catchall but not an accurate one.

Timewarp is classified as a ‘retro shop’ even if the classification is not as precise and is too loose.”

Joe has been in the ‘retro’ antiques business since the late 80’s and he said that even before then, as mature student, he used to decorate his apartments with the same objects:

“I would go and buy things from thrift shops and junk shops because there were more around then and in those days people didn’t recognise the true value of good design.”

Being independent is a lot more personal

A diverse cliental comes to Timewarp and during our interview the range of customers was evident. Firstly, someone from London came to buy a lantern for a set design for a Warp film being shot in Sheffield. They were followed by a group simply looking for knobs for a set of draws in their house. Joe said that they also get a lot of musicians, artists and interior designers buying from the shop.

He believes that being independent allows him to be more personal with his customers:

“If you are running your own place you have to get a little bit of a cue from people and once they are engaged in conversation with you it is easier to find out what they want and to help them find it.”

Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

Photoshoot outside Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

How to choose an antique to sell

Joe said that a lot of his products come from people entering the shop and selling him antiques, however he doesn’t always buy them:

“I am quite precise about what I like and what I don’t like and I often have to let people down gently. For me to want to retail something it would have to have something about its design, its provenance, it has to be something that is better than the ordinary.”

When I asked Joe whether he had criteria for what he buys and sells he read out a list of principles, which reflected his ethos and beliefs about ‘retro’ very clearly:

I like the idea of future antiques being affordable but I lose interest in the mainstream. If too many people like something I begin to question why these people didn’t like that before, it’s something to do with people being bombarded with what they should be buying. A lot of my customers are what I call ‘the early adopters’ so they are into collecting the things or buying the type of furniture they do, well ahead of everybody else.”

Joe said that he tries not to follow fashion and trends because he believes they are short-lived and turn everyone into ‘copycats’:

Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

Timewarp Collectables, photograph by Timewarp

“I do follow my instincts and trust my experience, I like to use my intellectual knowledge, so I don’t need to Google stuff to know what it is, at the moment there is a lot of Googling going on. The best interior designers I come across are people who know what they want by intuition or the eye, not by what they can get online.

“I also try to buy the things I like or appreciate, I might not like it totally but I like something about it. It might be quirky, or I might like the decoration, the shape or the lack of decoration, it’s all about the aesthetic.”

Joe said he also has a bit of a preoccupation with design and designers. He was quick to point out that this was not in a branding sense, but in the sense that good designers create furniture that will become antiques in the future.

Antiques are green

As part of National Antiques Week, the Sheffield Antiques Quarter are focusing on the ‘greener side’ of antiques. However, Joe said he has been spouting about Antiques and collectables being green for a long time and that it is only recently that people are beginning to understand antiques from that standpoint:

“It is all recyclable, so we are not wasting natural resources to produce anything.”

Joe is very supportive of the Antiques Quarter:

“I think it is a cracking idea and I have been involved from an early stage. We have also been lucky to have the support of the Sheffield City Council in our plans. But it has needed the energy of Hendrika to drive it forwards and fortunately we have had enough people on board who are more concerned about the overall benefit to all of us collectively rather than individually.

“It has made a difference to the footfall and we find that people are doing an excursion around the area. They are still browsers and visitors and they might not be buyers in the first instance, but they are still coming and that is the first stage. They are pilgrims almost and they seem to be following the tour round almost religiously. It has also increased awareness of the Quarter nationally.”

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  1. Joy Lanon White

    Wise words from one of my vintage trader heroes and I completely echo what you said, Joe. Just to mention as well: life has a way of giving you what you need, when you need it. Joe, together with Carol (The Pad) and Wyn (Fifties Funhouse) have been invaluable with my vintage business start-up nearly 10 years ago. Thank you for inspiring me. I owe you all and I never forget.

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