If you’re looking for a miniature telephone box or a life-size elephant, then an outpost of kitsch could be just the ticket, says Julia Breen. And it’s also the place to find your perfect fitted kitchen

ON a busy junction at Leeming Bar, next door to the main depot of the Wensleydale Railway, Simply Dutch has been selling everything from oak, free-standing kitchens to giant carved phalluses – not without controversy – for more than 30 years.

It has gained more notoriety, it’s true, in the past nine years since charismatic businessman Jason Hadlow bought it and steered the business from being a stockist of traditional oak furniture from Holland to selling, well, just about anything you can imagine.

It’s now well-known as a destination for unusual items of furniture for both inside and outside the home. At the moment – and bang on trend, as Gok Wan would say – its speciality is shabby chic.

The seemingly boundless showroom is packed to the rafters with weird and wonderful items. There are classically beautiful oak tables, traditional Chesterfield chairs and antique mahogany desks. There is a golden mirrored armoire, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Palace of Versailles, and dotted around are candelabra, replica postboxes and walking sticks.

The Forbidden Corner, at Middleham, a tourist attraction featuring labyrinths and fairy stories, has been furnished almost exclusively by Simply Dutch. Many local pubs, restaurants and hotels have some unorthodox Hadlow-sourced item. And there isn’t a large hall in North Yorkshire that hasn’t got some item of furniture from the shop, Jason tells me.

Jason sources his stock from antique fairs, trade shows and regular suppliers. His aim is to provide unique items – and he does not disappoint.

“We once sold a stuffed South American bullfrog for £70.” he says. “A couple of years ago, I had a life-size T-Rex from the Phillippines impounded as it was being unloaded from a ferry at Hull. Police used sniffer dogs to search the dinosaur as they thought there might be drugs in there.”

In 2010, Jason had a 4ft stone phallus, which was on display in his shop window, confiscated by police. He was issued with a public order offence. Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, who lives in Yarm and is a regular customer, joined the global “Free Willy” campaign and helped a wave of international publicity wash over the shop – before Jason quietly did his duty and paid the fine. “I still sell a couple of stone phalluses a month,” he says.

But gaining notoriety for quirkiness takes away from some of the more traditional parts of Simply Dutch. The shop is still true to its roots and sells a wide range of oak furniture, including beds and rustic oak kitchen tables.

‘WE have always sold quality oak furniture,” says Jason. “It lasts a lifetime.

People have had it for years and maybe can’t move it as easily as they get older and so they bring it back and we sell it again. The by-product of that is they bring their children and we end up with generations of customers.”

Jason, who is chairman of the town council in his hometown of Yarm, trained as a chef and sold his espresso bar in London before moving north with his family and buying Simply Dutch.

The story was nearly over last year when he planned to close and move to a smaller unit after business suffered from the recession and ongoing roadworks on the A1.

“The recession seemed to degenerate from a recession to a depression,” he says. “It became a sport not to shop, or if you did, not to buy anything.

We decided to close down and had a closing down sale. But people were actually begging us to stay open and we took more than £250,000 in just over four weeks. We were back in the game.” OAK kitchens are a speciality of Simply Dutch – crafted by a carpenter who has made everything from kitchens for Alan Shearer to the trusty spice rack.

Now owner Jason Hadlow has added to the collection with the launch of a business selling tailor-made, easy-to-fit kitchens.

Simply tailor-made

Oak Freestanding Kitchens sells bespoke furniture tailored to suit people who are looking for a whole new kitchen or just a couple of units.

Everything is made from solid oak with reclaimed pine interiors – no chipboard or MDF is used.

The website oak-free-standing-kitchens.co.uk, has online design aids to help people build their own kitchen or they can contact the experienced team for more help.

Jason can also offer help an advice on buying, planning and designing a kitchen.

All kitchens and units are delivered within 12 weeks and the average cost of the full kitchen is £5,800 – about 20 per cent less that the national average.

  • Simply Dutch, Darton House, Bedale Road, Leeming Bar, near Northallerton, DL7 9AS or visit simply dutch.co.uk