As an independent retailer and small business owner, Marion is naturally drawn to other small scale endeavours. So here is an eclectic mix of other small scale, one-off or down-right quirky things which have caught her eye. Mostly in Blighty, but there are a few interlopers! The list will grow as other little gems are remembered. Click on the links to plan some expeditions or do some armchair travelling. As you'll see we like old stuff, books plus tea and cakes!
Dyad Productions, Fantastic (and minute) theatre company. Their production of Austen's Women at the Brook Theatre, Chatham was an absolutely incredible one-woman dramatic performance. Come back to Chatham soon please!
Frank, Whitstable - this pocket size gallery/shop always has an eclectic range of artwork, ceramics, books and paper goods for sale. The shop window is often an artwork in its own right and the painted advertising on the building is the icing on the cake.
Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden - regulars to the shop know that I'm a fan of the early 20th century artists Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden. If you are too, make a beeline for the small, unassuming gallery in this picturesque Essex town. Their permanent collection of work of Great Bardfield artists is impressive and their teeny tiny ceramics gallery is also full of covetable pieces.
Rochester Picture Palace - I love trips to the cinema and this cinema club offers fortnightly films right in the heart of the High Street; a real treat after work! Offering a curated mix of recent releases that you might have missed first time around and award winning foreign language and independent films, it's a great local asset.
The Maglis Gallery, Dubai - a glorious art gallery in the old city of Bastakiya. A series of galleries around an open courtyard. I even managed to travel back with a painting by an English artist, Paul Wadsworth, even though it wouldn't fit in my suitcase!
Independent bookshops What's not to love? These are 3 of my favourites:
Harbour Books, Whitstable and Aldeburgh Bookshop - two coastal bookshops with a great selection. I'm sure you won't leave empty handed...
Topping Books, Ely - a joyful discovery on a wet Sunday afternoon - and they do teas and coffees - hurrah.
Mr B's Emporium of Reading, Bath - up and down stairs with comfy chairs in all the right places - can I move in?
A Nation of Shopkeepers
Loop, Islington, London - now I don't really knit, but this yarn emporium makes me want to click my needles and get to grips with cables, or at least perfect my purl.
The Old Pharmacy, Faversham - another swoon-worthy wool shop or as it's described - a luxury yarn dispensary. I came out with my prescription of a new knitting book, good intentions of dusting off my 4mm knitting needles and a spring in my step at having found another independent shop owner passionate about crafts.
Antiques Textiles Company, Hampstead, London. If you're looking to purchase an antique quilt, make a beeline for this tiny gallery. The quality of the quilts is superb, which is reflected in the prices, but the range and knowledge of the owner is second to none.
Archemilia's Nest, Standard Quay, Faversham. Lovely shop selling vintage furniture and gardenalia. The beautifully displayed contents of the workshop spill out onto the quayside. Great place for one-of-a-kind presents.
Baileys Home and Garden, Ross on Wye - alas from Kent this is not really a quick pop to the shops, but oh boy, make the journey at some point. The setting, the products (combining utility, recycling and quirkiness) and the gorgeous Tabernacle Tearoom (don't miss the outside bathrooms) are superb. It will make you either a) want to move to Wales just to be closer to the shop b) cut your losses and indulge in enough retail therapy to keep you going until the next pilgrimage or c) buy their books from Hometown!
Fanny's Antiques, Lynmouth Road, Reading - a favourite haunt when I lived in Reading. The best sort of antique emporium; vast, slightly down-at-heel and with a good selection of affordable items. On one lucky visit, my haul included a painted tin trunk, pressed glass wine goblets, some linen tea towels, oh and a beehive (as you do...)
Fish's Eddy - New York. This is a NY institution, selling old catering china, serveware and glasses, plus new designs with a retro feel.
Paradise Road, in my old life as a buyer and product developer, I commuted further than Rochester High St! On a trip to Sri Lanka I came across this store and knew why I was a retailer - the setting, the products, the ambiance. I can still remember the music that was playing. What a gem - visit their website as you're probably not passing Colombo soon.
Reed and Son, Saffron Walden. I defy you to leave this second hand/junk shop without purchasing something. The furniture range varies from junk to antique and some just-about-retro 70s numbers. The prices are very good, which makes the putting back of sideboards, carver chairs and drop leaf tables v.v.difficult. On my last visit I wished my mode of transport was a capacious Transit van rather than a small hatchback...
Waterside Antiques, Ely. You could be lost in here for hours - the place is huge. Go in with an open mind and come out with a lighter wallet and essential treasures.
Butler's Emporium, George Street, Hastings. Yet another amazing vintage store - worth visiting just to admire the building interior. I came out with a small piece of furniture that really can't decide if it's a stool or table. Whichever ... it's used on a daily basis to reach the high shelves in my kitchen!
Tall skinny latte and more to go
Cuore, Broadway Bexleyheath. New independent Italian coffee shop. Lovely interior with a central communal table, delectable pastries, plus pastas, antipasti and other temptations that you can buy. Already planning a return visit so I can sample their lunchtime menu...
Samphire, High Street, Whitstable, great for brunch, lunch or later, this relaxed restaurant is always busy which isn't surprising seeing as the food is fab.
Stuzzichini, Broadway, Bexleyheath. Italian restaurant with a deli counter near the entrance which makes for a wonderful display. Open all day with plenty of different sizes of dishes depending on your appetite. Plus, some two-person 'sofa-style' seating makes for a comfortable and leisurely meal with a friend.
The Cheese Room, Rochester. I don't plug other local places as I reckon that once you're in town visiting us, you'll find other gems in the high street. However, this deli/coffee house is an exception as it's based in Hometown's original shop and I just love its new reincarnation. Serving great coffee and food, it's open late certain evenings, for a delightfully cheesy start to the weekend.
Waynes - this coffee shop in Helsingborg is based in the imposing setting of an old bank. I took every opportunity to enjoy the Swedish tradition of fika (coffee and a cake) at the weekends. OK, so Waynes isn't actually a one-off as there are now branches throughout Sweden and elsewhere, but it seems to have bags more style and individuality than the mega coffee chains in the UK.
Bageriet, Rose Street, Covent Garden - much closer to home, this miniscule bakery just around the corner from Stanfords is the size of a postage stamp, but does fabulous Swedish kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). One of those happy-accident discoveries. Smaklig måltid!