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I was a Big Issue vendor and now I'm a furniture restorer

Steve Wyatt spent three years as a Big Issue vendor - a role that kept him out of trouble and showed him how kind people were. He now owns his own furniture restoration business and he thinks his previous customers would be amazed to see how far he has come.

Steve Wyatt learned to restore furniture in rehab. Photo: Trevor Prince

Steve Wyatt battled addiction for more than a decade, leading to spells of homelessness and time in prison, but it was his three-year stint selling The Big Issue that reacquainted him with human kindness.

Wyatt, now 44, sold The Big Issue at Pero’s Bridge in Bristol from 2008 to 2011 while battling to beat addiction and now runs his own furniture restoration business, Poole-based Restored Retro. The former vendor remembers how selling The Big Issue helped him on to a better path.

“I met lots of characters on my pitch and some of the customers who helped me showed me love when I couldn’t love myself. That still sticks with me now,” Wyatt tells The Big Issue. “I think of these people now. It would be fantastic if they bought an issue with me in it – they would be amazed.

“The Big Issue kept me out of trouble. People showed me so much kindness too – the local bars and restaurants used to bring me food and drink and I remember a man once gave me a £90 train ticket to Cornwall he couldn’t use. You remember stuff like that even now.”

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Wyatt first got into restoring furniture in his pre-Big Issue days while in rehab. It took a four-year period of rehabilitation and support at a 12-step treatment centre for him to conquer his demons.

That gave Wyatt the foundation to follow his dream of restoring mid 20th century furniture and he opened Restored Retro this April after Covid-19 lockdown. He has also struck up a friendship with Jay Blades of The Repair Shop fame and even stocks Blades’s own pieces.

“There are loads of opportunities opening for me. I had a dream to restore furniture and I followed that dream and made it happen,” says Wyatt.

“The Big Issue was a stepping stone to where I am. It gave me hope and people showed me love and in a certain way it kept me on the straight and narrow.”

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