Annie's Truck Shop - Our First Featured VW Business!
For some of us VW's become more than just a lifestyle option - they become the basis of our businesses as well. Every month we will feature a VW based business -one that is wholly centred around the VW vehicle itself! There are some amazing people out there with some equally inspiring VW's. Whether you are looking to be inspired, have the start of an idea and just need a bit of encouragement to get started, these ongoing blog posts should help you on your way. Our first feature....the delightful "Annie's Truck Shop" and the story of "Dolly" and her owners Jonathon and Ann Marie (Annie)...
We are Ann Marie and Jonathon, a married couple from Darlington, Co. Durham. Ann Marie works in a local supermarket and Jonathon is a Policeman.
Our VW history is very, very limited. Jonathon has had experience driving some classic VW buses but as far as ownership of anything VW goes, we were novices.
Introduce Your VW...
She is called "Dolly" (as in mixture), she is a 1978 T2 Bay window, LHD. The reg' shows her as 1981 (I'll cover that later)!
Born in Hannover, Germany and exported to Switzerland, from there we believe to Poland in about 1981. We don't know how she came to be in the UK. The documents we got on buying her showed as first registration in 1981, the birth certificate from the VW Museum in Germany showed as 1978 as did the M plate.. However the DVLA went with 1981.
We picked her up in September 2014, the previous owners of Dolly are good friends of ours. They own Lovedubcars Ltd a wedding transport company, with a fleet of 6 VW's - 3 buses and 3 cabriolet beetles). When their business started Jonathon was a driver for them and so had some limited VW experience and the perils of it.
Lovedubcars had the idea of a "happy hearse", found Dolly on Ebay and bought her. On picking her up they described her as being like a box of Lego with no instructions! The hearse did not come into fruition.
Due to the amaount of wedding bookings they had they just couldn't get Dolly sorted. After she was restored she sat at their HQ with not much happening. Lovedub had floated the idea of the van being a shop previously.
We ended up at an event they had organised and during the night we became the new owners of Dolly! In the morning when we woke up there were a few moments of "What have we done?", but , in the space of a few moments we were smiling with anticipation!
Introduce Your Business...You guys own and run the amazing Annies Truck Shop, how did it come to be? Dolly is perfectly styled- was it easy to realise your vision for her or were there a few bumps along the way?
Annie,although having worked in retail for many years, had always wanted to own a sweet shop. This had come from hours, as a kid, of refilling the pic n mix on a Sunday in her local Woolworths where her dad was a manager.
We had looked at and priced up local business premises to become a newsagent / local corner shop, but, it was so expensive and there was plenty of competition.
We didn't go looking for a van it just happened!
On getting Dolly we envisaged the final appearance and how it should look, as if we had pulled a cover off of a barn from the Waltons TV Show. A grocer/general dealer delivery van, but had never done anything like this before.
We wanted to be able to drive up to an event / celebration, open up and serve our sweets and treats!
The van came to us with the engine and bodywork complete. We needed to create the shop, brand her and brand the business. After some research we contacted Dubtricks, near Ripon, North York's. The van went off on a trailer to them in January 2015.
While Dolly was being fitted out we had to style it and brand the business. We ended up being introduced to the KIng Of Space (yes...really!) - a local design company. We were put in touch with him as someone who "designs stuff" but it ended up being much more than that.
After a couple of meetings Dolly was realised along with cartoon Dolly! We wanted to continue the general dealers van theme and wanted wooden shelving and the van signwritten. Working closely with KIng of Space the concept became a reality.
We formed the 11 o clock (that's PM!) club, as it was generally around this time that we'd get a Facebook message with the next set of concepts and designs from the KIng Of Space after he had clearly been basking in cosmic rays!
After the framework had been fitted and the van lowered we contacted a company called Canvasman, near Otley, Harrowgate, measured, created and fitted the canvas cover/canopy. Their attention to design and detail was great and the materials were excellent.
We did look into having the van professionally sign written by hand but it was so expensive, instead The King Of Space went forwent for layered decals.
We had imagined this sign written general dealers van with a shop on the back including it's own canopy, and ,that's exactly what we got! It just makes us smile, and OMG it's parked outside OUR house!!!
Was it easy to realise the vision? You'd think reading the above that it was. We are new to owning our own business and novices in all things business and that means that we had to manage and arrange the whole thing ourselves. The amount of detail gave us headaches and sleepless nights!
It just took time and a lot of patience. Dolly was ready only four days before our first event. We cut it really fine. We didn't want to start with a job half done, it was important to us to look the part and to be able to deliver that experience to our customers, young and old, from day one!
Hows it been going? You've been to a few shows and different venues...how are you finding it? Is it easier or harder than you expected? Do you love it? Would you recommend to others that they turn their VW passion into a business? Top tips...?
It's safe to say that we have had a crazy first six weeks. We attended a local VW weekend show which had to change venue at the last minute. We did have a nice weekend, just practising the whole practicalities of setting up and closing down, of serving and meeting people.
During that show the guy from Dubtricks called by to see us and then invited us to Dubs Int' Dales in Bedale, then on the Monday after we were invited to Field of Dreams in York. These were two events we had only dreamed of attending but hadn't expected to attend for the next year or even the year after.
The events themselves were great, although we never camped out before and the first night we had a torrential downpour in our tent but we got over that!
We've had experience of a small local show to a full on VW Festival.
We did stand at times and say to each other we couldn't believe it, it made us a bit giddy, we had to pinch ourselves!
Dubs Int' Dales was amazing. The weather was great as was the location being 40 minutes away from us. The venue was fab and the whole atmosphere was superb.
Has it been harder than expected? Well, I suppose it has. We have been very frstrated at times but I think thats part of being a VW owner, they have good days and bad days! We have broken down, we have had to fix things and it has cost money. Would we still do it? Oh yes! She is fab, she makes us smile, she makes other people smile! We love it! Meeting happy people and it makes us happy when people want to walk up and have a good look at the van. It's taken us by surprise how much people want to know about her. The birthplace, engine, history, and colour etc but it turns out that we have started to really admire other VW's and the time and effort people have put into them.
Would we do it again? Yes! It's an easy question to answer. We have exactly what we wanted, we are being invited to some lovely places meeting amazing people, it gets us out of the house as a family and our kids have made lots of friends and had loads of fun!
We have met some people who have used their VW passion converting it into a business idea, we'd say embrace it. Give it a go! We've seen amazing VW Burger Vans, ice cream vans, coffee shops. It's certainly an area that is getting very popular but that's not to saythat there aren't opportunities for people. The shows and camps are clearly getting more popular, people are making the most of their weekends and going out to meet those with a similar interest.
1) Do it, just give it a go!
2) Be patient, there's normal time and then there's VW time!
3) You will break down - learn to live with it. It'll fix!
4) Don't be afraid to send that cheeky email, or to put that hashtag or mention on social media. Shy bairns get nowt!
5) Get the right people to do the jobs you need doing!
Jonathon and Annie provided us with their responses to our questions regarding their business venture Annies Truck Shop. The last line of the email that accompanied this went like this...
"I can say that this is the first time we've put this stuff down on paper, and ,the first time of expressing our experience as a buiness and being part of the VW scene / family, it gave us a chuckle and brought a tear to the eye"....Jonathon and Annie
We have to say that reading their responses it did exactly the same for us. Despite considering themselves new to VW life they clearly already "get" it. We wish them every success for the future!
If you have a VW vehicle based business and you would like to feature as part of the monthly blog please contact Carolyn at Just Kampers with some company details and she will get back to you. [email protected]