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Sandy Stagg has had a shop in Churchfield Road for 6 years. Her shop, the Vintage Home Store, is a well-kept secret, and frequented by celebrities (such as Emilia Fox, who lives in Acton) as well as designers looking for inspiration (like Cath Kidston) and 'props and film people':  things picked up in her shop have appeared in Harry Potter and James Bond films.  

Sandy also owns an antique clothing shop at 282 Portobello Road - open only on Fridays and Saturdays.  

I asked Sandy what first drew her to Acton. She has a slight translatlantic lilt and I had assumed she was born in Canada or the US. In fact, she was born just down the road in Shepherd's Bush, then went to Canada during the '60s and stayed there for 25 years.

"I came back to look after my mother who by then had moved to Acton. She decided to move to Acton in the mid-1980's because she said it was a place she really liked.  She particularly liked about the swimming baths, the library and the old market. I'm sure she would have liked the new Farmer's Market on the Mount, but in those days it was a really proper old-fashioned market."  

Her mother picked what Sandy describes as "a really grotty flat on Churchfield Road." (This was 105a which is half of the property in which the Vintage Home Store is now housed. "It was owned by a Ugandan Asian sari importer called Mr Unarket. He owned both properties: he sat in one with his family and stored saris in the other.   My mother said she had everything she needed on the doorstep and she was probably the first person to say "it's up and coming in Acton, you know!""

Mr Unarket always told Sandy that he would let her buy the freehold to 105 at some point when he retired. Others tried to buy it, but Mr Unarket was a man of his word.

Sandy told me: "I love knowing so many of the old people in Acton. For example, my cleaning lady Bridie who also worked for Sean Connery! Bridie is wonderful - she is on the street all the time and looks after people. She must be 80 by now and doesn't work for me any more, but still does shopping for people less able than herself."

When her mother died, sadly soon after Sandy had returned to look after her, Sandy decided to move into no. 105.   She loves Acton "because it's so easy to get to - from Heathrow and Central London; and yet it still feels like a real place. I walk down the street and say 'hi' to people and they say 'hi' back. I think that's important" She admits it has its down sides - what she calls "people with bad habits" and she works tirelessly to try to protect Acton from deteriorating further by keeping a sharp eye on licensing.  

She was first drawn into commenting on licensing issues when the nearby Spar applied for a license and there were issues with Foleys Pub.   "I think with licenses we really need to watch what is happening. The Council really don't take much notice of what's going on. You have to say your piece and comment on things. Don't ever tell me there's no point in having a say."  

She is reasonably pleased that recently the Belvedere, which applied for longer opening hours, has been limited to midnight Sunday to Thursday and until 1.30am on Fridays and Saturdays.  

Soon after returning to the UK, Sandy decided to open the shop. She also bought the adjoining property, 103 and knocked the two together. The result is a treasure trove of wonderful finds, some of which are pictured right.   Sandy lives on site (she rents out one of the upstairs flats to Fadi, the owner of l'Oriental over the road) and has a wonderful garden at the back where she demonstrates that she has very green fingers. She even grows tomatoes (they are extremely good), beans, zucchini, parsnips, potatoes and raspberries, strawberries, blackberries blueberries, blackcurrants "you name it, I grow it!".   There's no doubt that she is an inspiration in the garden department and in a small space, too.

It's difficult to spend a short amount of time in the Vintage Home Store as there are so many fascinating, collectable objects everywhere you look. With Vanilla shortly to open over the road, this section of Churchfield Road is up, up and away.

September 7, 2007