End of an antique era

By Rowena Orejana

Lord Ponsonby Antiques' old white building is layered with dust. In many places its floor covering is worn out.

Vintage leather shoes are on display near the window; inside, loud Hawaiian shirts clash with the painted Chinese chests and the collection of antique watches. On the walls vintage street and business signs in tin and wood reflect a simpler time. In the next room, old tables nudge dressers with untold pasts.

Lord Ponsonby Antiques has been a fixture at the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Williamson Ave for more than 20 years. Sadly, with the death of owner David John Dudley Brown, 62, the iconic store must close.

"David did it very well. I don't have his talent," says Ross Smith, a good friend of Mr Brown who ran the shop with him. He says an on-site auction will probably be held within the month, but nothing is definite yet.

Mr Smith recalls how Mr Brown opened his first shop in another building on Ponsonby Rd. The business started out with nine antique stalls. After a few years Lord Ponsonby had taken over the entire building.

When the shop came up for lease in the 1980s, Mr Brown took it. Lord Ponsonby's took several directions, depending on what roused Mr Brown's interest. "He would quickly become an expert on whatever he put his mind to," says Mr Smith.

As the suburb around the store underwent gentrification and restoration, the shop's colonial furniture sold swiftly.

"Lord Ponsonby's outfitted lots and lots of the local villas. We were selling lots of kauri tables, chests of drawers, dressing tables, that sort of thing."

Colonial furniture became harder to source by the mid-80s, so Mr Brown switched to selling Irish antique furniture, which was popular for about a decade.

"Then, Ireland ran out of furniture," Mr Smith recalls with a smile, "so he looked around for a while and found a couple of interesting Asian painted tables, put them in the window and they sold very quickly."

The furniture was spotted by a Chinese lady who put them in touch with a supplier. The store then sold antique furniture from Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan.

Mr Brown developed an interest in antique watches and vintage clothing, which accounts for the Hawaiian shirts, jackets and leather shoes. Customer Tommy Doyle bought his 1940s' Universal watch at Lord Ponsonby's. "It's an old watch and it suits this old arm," he says.

Mr Doyle is sad to see the shop close. "I hate to see it go because it is a place where you had a choice," he says, adding that Mr Brown was incredibly honest and funny.

"He had lots of knowledge and he was very free in giving it. People forget. That's the bad part. It's a bit of history gone. It will be sadly missed."


- The Aucklander

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