Lymington dealer in buyout of renowned Chelsea Antiques Fair

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Chelsea Antiques Fair
Steve Sly and Charles Wallrock, the antique dealers behind 2Covet

AN ONLINE antique sales site part-owned by a Lymington dealer has taken over a renowned London fair.

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Charles Wallrock, who owns Wick Antiques in the town, founded online portal 2Covet with Steve Sly and Zara Rowe. Now they’ve bought the rights to Chelsea Antiques Fair, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

It is the longest continually running event of its type and attracts dealers and buyers from around the world to its iconic venue, the Chelsea Old Town Hall. Over the years some well-known names have opened the fair, including Sir Cecil Beaton, Sir Alec Douglas Hume, Edward Fox, George Melley, Margaret Thatcher and Dame Diana Rigg.

Charles said the Chelsea Antiques Fair is traditionally one of the most important in the calendar.

“In its heyday in the 80s and 90s, Chelsea Antiques Fair was as well-known as the
Chelsea Flower Show, and a big social event too; many important deals are done each year.

“The Old Town Hall’s size limits the number of high-quality dealers, but attracts people from around the world – especially the US.”

While a date for the fair’s return is still to be set, due to the uncertainty over Covid, Steve said it was hoped to be sometime in the autumn.

“Demand is really high because so many fairs have been cancelled or postponed due to Covid and the lockdowns,” said Steve.

Caroline Penman at her first fair in 1984 with the Duke of Westminster

“When we launched 2Covet it was never meant to replace fairs or shops – but to bring dealers and their customers together online.

“Our fair will enable dealers to meet their customers and help build relationships, which will lead to more deals being struck online. It is a project aimed at benefiting our dealers on the 2Covet platform.

“The social aspect is important too because when people share passions such as antiques they like to meet in person.

“We will offer stands to our 2Covet dealers first and we have some of the finest in the country.”

Chelsea Antiques Fair was bought from Caroline Penman for an undisclosed sum. Caroline has run 65 fairs over 37 years, but will stay on as a patron and consultant. She said at age 76 she wanted to hand over to someone with fresh ideas and an understanding of the antiques trade.

“I spoke to several people about taking on the fair because I was running out of ideas.

“I knew Charles and Steve and they were the perfect fit, and 2Covet will really complement the fair.

“When people contemplate buying a high-priced item, it builds up their confidence and trust if they meet the dealer face-to face.

“As a long-established fair, Chelsea is reassuring for dealers and currently there really is a pent-up demand for the return of fairs, especially important ones like Chelsea.”

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