Colonial Heritage Antiques is an antique in itself – on the corner of Empire Street, the green-fronted store has been an emerald in the Cambridge crown for 45 years.
It was started by the very same hands that handles the valuables now; Ken Sheldrick opened the store in 1972 with his wife Beverley, who sadly passed away four years ago. A born and bred Sydney man, Ken met Cambridge lass Beverley on a ship set for England – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Married in London, the two lived in Australia where Ken worked as a schoolteacher (economics, history and geography as his areas of expertise) and Beverley garnered a reputation as a world class embroiderer - in fact, Beverley even grew to be a familiar face in America, gracing the TV screen and many a magazine cover with her creations and tips as the years went on.
Coming over the Tasman every year for Christmas with the family, Ken grew to love Cambridge more and more. What a beautiful place to bring up children, he always thought, and eventually the decision was made that they would do just that with their own.
Cambridge in the 1970s was well established as an Antique town – signs welcomed at each entrance to the “Town of Arts and Antiques”, such stores were peppered all about the place and others from around would traipse to town for the day to see all the collectables and period pieces on offer. Always set on the notion they would open a shop in Sydney, the Sheldricks decided to instead join the Cambridge forces and do so in a prominent spot on the main street. When the Colonial Hotel shut its doors for the last time in the early 70s, the Sheldricks were the first to move into the one of the vacant spaces and start their legacy.
Ken loves what he does today as much as the day he started – maybe even more so. He is incredibly grateful for the splendid staff he’s had over the years, especially his current ladies Gail and Margaret.
He likens having the store to having a museum, but one where people can take the treasures away with them. His favourite part is meeting people who come in looking for things, be them locals popping in or those from further afar who come in year after year on their travels.
“The whole running of the store gives me pleasure, and in turn other people pleasure, when they find something that links to their childhood or delights them. That gives me pleasure too, so it goes round and round and round,” he said.
And part of that is Cambridge itself, he believes.
“We get so many tourists coming through, and everyone just loves Cambridge. Even people who have only been here for five minutes remark things like, ‘This town has such a presence’ or, ‘There’s something about this town, it’s so unique’ or, ‘This place is just so special’.
“Even just last week, a woman who had just moved here came in and said, ‘I’m just walking round with my mouth open, Cambridge is just so beautiful’.”
And Ken wholeheartedly agrees.
“It is! The people are so friendly and always pleasant, it’s such an accessible place, it’s so central. The trees, the river, the lake, everything is here. It has good schools, and it’s like a village of Hamilton – we’re only ten minutes away from a big city with a hospital and everything on our doorstep. We have an excellent library, greenbelts all around, incredible history, architecture and lovely old villas.
“The first thing you hear from anyone is what a lovely place this is, and it is indeed a lovely place.”
And he is indeed a lovely man and a credit to Cambridge.