A DREAM has come true for an avid antiques dealer.

Entrepreneur Ben Whittaker yearned to open his first shop when he was 23 - a goal he has just achieved.

Teaming up with dad Richard, the pair have launched The Flock of Arts in Knutsford, a bespoke picture framers stocking an eclectic selection of antiques, oddities and furniture.

Ben Whittaker and dad Richard

Ben and dad Richard shaking hands on their new shop as they both hold early 20th century Japanese chargers

Ben's thirst for business began when he was a schoolboy.

"I started buying and selling sweets when I was 13," said Ben, who shopped wholesale and bought scales and a bagging machine to turnaround an incredible profit.

"I made over £10,000 doing that and invested it in pieces of art and antiques, restoring and selling on."

Ben Whittaker and dad Richard

Ben and dad having fun with a solid marble torso made by David Kemp and an early 20th century carousel ride plane

Whilst working in auction houses for seven years alongside experts including Adam Partridge, he juggled managing a pub and running his own online company from home.

"Wherever I looked I was learning," said Ben, who snapped up a late 18th century water colour for £450 and sold it for £6,500.

"I developed a passion for Italian paintings, oils and water colours. I read up and research artists and their styles.There is always more to find out.

Early 20th century watchmakers cabinet

A late19th/early 20th century watchmaker's cabinet complete with a selection of watchmaker parts and tools

"You learn their little quirks and how to pinpoint colour and palettes.

“Dealing with everything in auction houses was fabulous. There was always more to look at and more to find.

"I was learning quality.”

Ben taught himself how to make professional picture frames and shares his skills and expertise with his dad.

Ben Whittaker and dad Richard

Ben and dad Richard in front of their chevron wall of picture frames

He became a specialist in studio ceramics, unique pieces lovingly created by gifted craftsmen.

Hunting for top quality distinctive treasures fills him with excitement.

Large Indonesian canvas painting depicting a Buddha

An Indonesian canvas painting depicting a Buddha with a pair of Japanese chargers, Murano style pheasant and Margaret Frith bowl

"I want to be different and quirky," said Ben, who loves exploring car boot sales and flea markets across UK and Europe.

"Getting up at stupid o'clock, going round damp fields in the freezing cold is part of the beauty of it. You find all sorts, there is a thrill, nothing like it.

"If you buy something different it will sell itself."

Early 20th century carousel ride plane

An early 20th century carousel ride plane in front of three enamel letters on a stained pine settle

Childhood nostalgia has been rekindled with the arrival of 19 toy cars ranging from fire engines and tractors to racing vehicles and Noddy's famous Reliant Kitten at his new shop.

"They're guaranteed to put a smile on your face," said Ben.

The determined young entrepreneur has set himself more targets.

"You've got to have ambition," he said. "By 25, I hope to have a turnover of £25,000, by 28, open new premises, at 32 have an auction house and by the time I am 36, I plan to open a bar."