Indie Oxford Interview: Sanders of Oxford

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

This week we catch up with Phil from Sanders of Oxford to find out more about this amazing High Street landmark and it’s fascinating history, as well as learning more about their treasure trove of unique pieces. Plus, Phil shares some top tips on running a small business.

Tell us about how the shop started and the history of the building.

Our shop at 104 High Street has been an antique book, print, or map shop since the middle of the 1800’s and has been known as Sanders of Oxford for the last 90 years. We are housed in a slightly cobbled together, sixteenth and seventeenth century, grade II listed building, known as the ‘Salutation Inn’ during most of the sixteenth century. The two current owners of the shop, Sarah Boada-Momtahan and myself, have in turn brought the shop into the twenty first century, retaining at the same time the traditional charm and atmosphere of this historic property.

sanders

How long have you run Sanders and how did you get into the business?

I studied fine art, Printmaking, at Winchester School of Art and worked in various galleries and libraries before I started working for Sarah, and the late Christopher Lennox-Boyd, as a shop and gallery assistant. 2017 marked my 10th year of employment with Sanders, over the last decade I have worked in the basement, on the shop floor, and in the office, I am now co-owner with Sarah Boada-Momtahan and we have been running the business together since 2014.

sanders of oxford

What is Sanders best known for?

We are probably best known for having the world’s largest collection of prints of our famous University City. This ranges from large, separately published, panoramas of the city to small views of the individual colleges produced for the tourist market prior the invention of photography.

However our vast stock of over 30,000 prints and maps is extensive and varied, dating from the early 16th century to contemporary works, and encompasses a vast range of subjects, engravers, and prices. In the shop you will find old master prints and mezzotints, natural history and botanical illustrations, and a collection of exquisite Japanese woodblocks.

sanders of oxford

What makes your shop unique?

Dealing in antiques means that we generally only have one of anything in stock at any one time, so our collection is continually changing depending upon what we can find and buy. We are also one of the last general antique print and map shops left in the country and with more and more print and map sellers reverting to an online only presence, Sanders is one of the few places you can visit seven days a week and browse through (and buy!) such a vast array of printed antiquarian material.

Which are your favourite pieces at the moment?

I am currently into anything celestial and we have been building up our collection of start charts and maps of the heavens over the last year or so. I have managed to squirrel away a few select pieces for myself but we still have a good stock of prints and maps of the night sky printed in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, prices start from only 15 pounds up to nearly two thousand pounds.

sanders of oxford

‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ is a phrase that comes from my wife and has stuck with me since running the shop. I constantly remind myself of it when the workload seems to be getting the better of me and it really helps me to concentrate on what really needs doing and when.

What is the best lesson you have learnt about running your own business?

Delegate and don’t sweat the small stuff. Running a shop is tough in the current retail market, and you simply can’t do everything yourself, surrounding yourself with the right team and delegating tasks that fit individual strengths is a must. We are lucky in that we now have a staff of five working for us with varying backgrounds including Art History and Classics graduates.

‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ is a phrase that comes from my wife and has stuck with me since running the shop. I constantly remind myself of it when the workload seems to be getting the better of me and it really helps me to concentrate on what really needs doing and when.

Stick to what you know and are passionate about.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to open their own shop?

Stick to what you know and are passionate about. If you don’t know about what you are selling and you aren’t behind your products 100% then you probably shouldn’t do it. Sanders has survived due of the specialist knowledge and skills of the staff involved in running the business, a lot of this is learnt in-house as the history of print, and map making is not something that is generally taught on history of art courses. This knowledge is added to on a daily basis as we are continually cataloguing new stock to add to the shelves and onto the website.

sanders of oxford

…it is up to retailers to provide a shopping experience that they can’t get anywhere else.

How do you see the future of retail?

Tough, but optimistic. The current retail climate is particularly tough, and some would say that in Oxford it is even harder to run a brick-and-mortar shop due to the high rents and rates. The trend of supporting independent businesses is slowly gathering pace and if the powers that be also pick up on this then the High Street can thrive again. However it is up to the public to vote with their feet (and their cash!) as to where they choose to spend their money and it is up to retailers to provide a shopping experience that they can’t get anywhere else.

Lastly, which are your favourite independent businesses in Oxford?

Food: Pint Shop, that steak!

Drink: The Jolly Post Boys, my new(ish)local.

Coffee: Jericho Coffee Traders, our neighbours on the High Street.

Shopping: Shop at the Old Fire Station, great for gifts.

Indie Oxford Interview: Sanders of Oxford

The huge range of prints and products at Sanders of Oxford means, whatever your taste, you are sure to find something unique and special! We love the celestial pieces and can’t wait to head down for an afternoon of browsing. You can find out more about Sanders of Oxford here.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt
Social Mouth SamYoung Womens Music Project Oxford