Still the place to be after fifteen years
Located next to Johnson Community Hospital, the centre has evolved from being a garden centre and retail nursery into a place which sells antiques, vinyl records, reconditioned tools and ladies’ scarves.
For owner Peter Vickers, the centre is a labour of love that means different things to different people. Whether it is Alan Barnsdale’s thriving Uptown Vinyl Records, the collectibles at Justin Grimshaw’s Pendragon Antiques, rock portraits by acclaimed drummer Gilson Lavis or a six-foot high wooden throne, the centre has something for everyone.
Peter said: “Spalding Lifestyle Centre is an eclectic mix of things, from antique to modern goods and products.
“One of my original partners had a vision of a place that provided outdoor furniture and that vision has been her since we opened.
“But we also have good quality, used books and tools that are really popular for people who want to get a vice or a chisel.
“I do a lot of furniture restorations and when people see what we do with old furniture, bringing it back so it looks as good as new, they think that there must be something we can do for them as well.”
Like the centre itself, Peter’s own business experience contains an “eclectic mix” of plant and flower wholesale, TV and electrical sales and services, carpentry and catering.
He said: “I had an established shop called Plantz and Potz in Spalding and was very friendly with the owners of a gift shop in the town.
“During a holiday in Portugal, I met a business partner who became a friend.
Even John Hayes MP is a regular customer, with home-made ham and eggs being his favourite dish which he calls ‘the best ham and egg in town’Peter Vickers, owner, Spalding Lifestyle Centre, Pinchbeck
“We talked about the trend in garden centres and when we found out that Spalding Lifestyle Centre was on the market, we snapped it up.
“It was at the time of the ‘Titchmarsh effect’ when people were turning to gardening after watching TV programmes featuring Alan Titchmarsh.
“But once Springfields [Outlet Shopping and Festival Gardens] opened [in April 2004], it made things hard for us.
“So we’ve evolved into a bit of a different business that is more likely to sell a ladies’ scarf and a bit of jewellery than a shovel and a bit of compost.”
According to the Horticultural Trades Association, the UK garden market is worth around £5 billion and in 2013 alone, about £1.4 billion was spent on plants in the UK.
But the centre has another attraction in the shape of its cafe which Peter described as a “club”.
He said: “The food has never varied and we’re holding our prices because it’s not the right time to change them.
“We use a deep roast method to cook the ham, the chicken is A-grade, we make our own lasagne and we’ve always gone with high-quality coffee and top-of-the-range cakes.
“Even John Hayes MP is a regular customer, with home-made ham and eggs being his favourite dish and one which he calls ‘the best ham and egg in town’.
“But we think of our restaurant as a club and some of our more regular customers come in twice a day, once for coffee in the morning and then for lunch.”
Peter, Alan and Justin have become a team at the heart of Spalding Lifestyle Centre which is attracting customers from the UK and Europe for its records, antiques, food . . . and a throne.
“A couple of men who run a theatrical agency in Boston had it and they asked me if I was interested in selling it.
“It’s quite a special piece of furniture, six feet high, made out of solid wood, red, crocodile-effect velvet seat and a frame with carved figures in gold-leaf coating.
“Everyone who walks past it makes a comment about it and the throne has become a talking point for the centre.
“We’ve seen so many people come and go over the years but our customers are very loyal to what we do here.”
Spalding Lifestyle Centre’s most popular meal of home-roasted ham, eggs and chips was the must-have dish for John Hayes MP on Good Friday.
After enjoying Peter Vickers’ VIP treatment, Mr Hayes said: “I’ve been coming to the centre for years and I’ve bought all kinds of stuff there, including plants, antiques, wine and records.
“My son William is a big aficionado of rock music and he picks up a lot of records at the centre.
“It seems to be a hidden gem, the record shop in particular.”