One of Roman Road’s best kept secrets, Lofty’s furniture shop has been catapulted into fame with a new BBC show starring Tony Wong, the shop’s ever-smiling manager.
Originally, Lofty’s (a play on Algerian owner Lotfi’s name,) used to sell old furniture from Argos on a market stall, but as the area changed, so the shop has adapted its range.
The shop now stocks the best of Made.com, Swoon editions and John Lewis, amongst others. Innovatively, their stock comes from returns, cancelled orders, overruns and end of range products. These are bought directly from the suppliers and can be purchased in Lofty’s at a sizeable discount.
New stock comes in all the time, and to keep up, people often browse for their next purchases on Lofty’s Facebook and Instagram. Individual customer service is a key part of Lofty’s business model, and Wong is in almost constant communication with his customers over Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger.
On dry days, the stock is neatly lined up outside in the street, and the pink, blue and mustard velvet sofas and chairs bring an array of colour to Roman Road. When it rains, the stock stays inside the shop and customers can search through the towering piles of carefully balanced furniture to find their next piece.
Wong, who lives in Stepney, has worked at Lofty’s for eight years (the shop has been here for ten), and has very much become integral to the running of the business. ‘We’re thinking about trialling Sunday openings, but I think my partner will kill me! I already work six days a week’ he jokes.
Being on the road the whole time, Lofty is an expert the best places to visit on Roman Road Market. For a cheap and delicious lunch on the go, he recommends the Turkish women who cook gozlem at the market, just £3 for all the fillings. ‘I was eating two a day at one time’ laughs Wong. Or, he recommends, ‘The Algerian guy at the library makes a mean Peri Peri chicken.’
For many, Wong is known as the face of Lofty’s, especially after the release of the first episode of Flipping Profit, the BBC show that began its run on 16th April. Wong features in four episodes, and battles it out against antique specialists and upcyclers to make the most money for Children in Need.
‘It felt pretty good to hand over £600 to Children in Need’ he says. ‘I’ve never given anywhere near as much as that to charity before, I was pretty proud.’
Wong’s sunny attitude must be at least partly to do with why there are so many returning customers. Often, customers buy one thing and then will return the next day or week and buy a whole load more, he explains. Why wouldn’t you? These are high-end products at a high-street price. The only downside is that when something is gone, it is very often gone for good.
Roman Road Market is the perfect location for a shop like this. Wong thinks this is largely because of the huge diversity present in the area. ‘You have all different kinds of people, with all different tastes that congregate in this one area’ he explains.
There is also such a sense of community in the area, and this is something that Wong plays an active part in. ‘Whenever I fancy a cuppa, I just pop next door to Mono cafe, and Adam will bring one straight over to me in the shop.’
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