Yesterday, Jay Blades, star of the hit BBC One show The Repair Shop, opened his first real store in Poole, Dorset, in an effort to help revive Britain’s struggling high streets.
Over 100 people waited in line to welcome the TV personality, who is hoping for the shop’s success to mark the beginning of many Jay & Co shops across the country.
The store has 50 restored chairs, sofas, lamps, and other furniture, with some items priced at thousands of pounds, including swivel chairs worth £1,000 and a 1960s sofa for £1,950.
Mr Blades’ journey to success is somewhat of a modern rags-to-riches tale, having grown up in poverty on a council estate in Hackney after his father abandoned his mother, Barbara.
He left school without qualifications and got caught up in gang culture, leading to him being homeless and suffering a mental breakdown by his twenties.
Mr Blades could fit all his belongings in one carrier bag when he lived in a hostel before being given social housing on the Victorian Peabody estate.
Dyslexic and unable to read, it wasn’t until he reached 51 and found fame on The Repair Shop that he began tackling the illiteracy problem that had plagued him all his adult life.
The shop was set up with Steve Wyatt, who also has a background that includes homelessness, a 22-year drug addiction, and a spell behind bars.
Mr Wyatt was trained in furniture restoration via Jay’s charity Out Of The Dark, in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
The two business partners restored 50 chairs, sofas, lamps, and other furniture for the store, with some pieces priced at thousands of pounds.
Speaking at the opening of the shop, Mr Blades said: ‘Restoring furniture is like restoring yourself.
If you see a broken, knackered chair and you’re able to fix it, put stuff into it, paint it, glue it, screw another leg on it, put some fabric on it, give it that unique twist.
Nobody should be put on the scrap heap. We all have a use. You just need certain things put into you in order to shine.’
Filming for The Repair Shop takes place in a barn at Weald & Downland Living Museum in West Sussex, but the public is not allowed in while the cameras roll.
The show has featured almost 300 episodes, with Mr Blades and his team of craftspeople restoring anything that members of the public bring to them.
Last year, as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations, King Charles brought in an 18th-century bracket clock and a ceramic antique made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
Mr Blades’ early life was also challenging, as he used to live amongst rats in his childhood home in Hackney.
He revealed that he was brought up in impoverished conditions, with his mother Barbara being abandoned by his father when he was a baby.
The presenter starred in the BBC documentary Learning to Read at 51 in 2021, which saw him tackle the written word after years of being unable to read.
The presenter learned how to read last summer using the same techniques children use, such as phonics.