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Folk Farm: the most incredibly insane (in the best possible way) shop in Cardiff’s Arcades

Knowing where to start on this post is incredibly difficult. If you know anything about the shop, Folk Farm, or its charismatic owner, Chris Brick you’ll know why. If you don’t… well… prepare for something like you’ve probably never seen before.

Folk Farm is like no other arcade shop. In fact, it’s like no other shop. Certainly I’ve never witnessed anything like this before. Based around the theme of an old country farm, with sprinklings of the American mid-West liberally dashed around the place, this is a clothes-cum-record-cum-god-knows-what shop nestled away in the Castle Arcade.

If you’ve walked past it you’ve probably not really had any idea what’s going on in there. And if you’ve been brave enough to venture in, you’ve probably come out none-the-wiser.

It actually boasts Britain’s, if not Europe or the World’s largest collection of folk vinyl. Put simply there is a LOT here. It doesn’t seem to be in any order, so you will really need to root around if you’re looking for something in particular. There’s incredibly rare stuff here too, I’m not exactly in the know about this kind of thing, but you would hope a £100 record is £100 for a good reason.

On the other end of the spectrum, the clothes are amazing value. You’ll find mountains of t-shirts for £5. Or even £1 in some of the baskets. You’ll find random bits of clothing in the window that you could probably even haggle on the price of. You’ll also find random bits of whatever from all over the place floating around.

This isn’t the first time the owner, Chris Brick, has owned a shop of course. Oh no, far from it. Go in and ask if you want more details, honestly it’s really worth the chat. According to Chris, every 7-10 years he thinks up a new random idea, always based around a certain theme, and goes with it. He’s taken his shops to the US, notably in New York and San Francisco, but now, in what he thinks will be his last venture, he’s back in his homeland of Wales for Folk Farm.

Anyone familiar with his past might know of his previous ventures, Demob in London, Smylon Nylon in New York, Center for the Dull, also in New York and Teenage Millionnaire in LA. If you’re not familiar, now is a good time to get acquainted with the latest project. But even they weren’t his first ventures, he tells me, in his Welsh-American lilt that his initial business projects all collapsed, losing hundreds of thousands in the process. But he always picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got on with the next one. Until people started to cotton on and the shops became successful, a bit weird, a bit different, somewhere people just want to hang out.

He lives up by Abergavenny, the surrounding counties being the places he sources his crazy collection of goods from.  He tells me a lot of things in the shop are designed to evoke memories in customers. The tin bath for example, which you’ll find hanging off the ceiling as you come in the door (of course), reminds him of fireside baths as child.

Unbelievably, Chris says that not that many people have come to photograph the shop before for the press and so on. What?! I ask, probably 10 times during the course of our 2 hour chat. This can’t be possible. Why wouldn’t people want to photograph this? This is the most incredible place I’ve been in for a long time. Stand on one spot in the store and you can take 50, no 100 pictures and they will all be completely different. Honestly, try it out for yourself. Chris won’t mind, he just goes with the flow.

After leaving the States behind to come back, New York was the hardest market to crack apparently, Chris is less bothered about making money these days, so long as there’s enough to pay the rent and the bills and get by. This is clearly just about him doing what he wants to do and not worrying about what anyone else thinks – the best way to be.

His children, having grown up in America had to swap Malibu for the Welsh Valleys, love it all. They probably get their attitude from their father – it’s only his wife who would rather be back Stateside (on a rainy day would you blame her?).

You’ll see that I’ve taken a lot of portraits of Chris – all his idea. What can I say other than this guy’s a natural in front of the camera. He says he picked it up from watching the film extras that used to visit his American shops, but it’s obvious this isn’t the first time he’s been photographed. He asked to see one of the photographs I’d taken. “Look how old and fat I look!” he remarked. “Uh-oh…” went through my mind. “Isn’t it great!” was his next sentence.

Chris Brick and Folk Farm. Incredible guy, incredible shop. Go and check it out, now.

As you can imagine, I took hundreds of photos in this shop, of which I narrowed it down significantly. You can see a selection in this post, but there’s even more over on this Flickr set.

On this post, comments are, more than welcome, please share your thoughts, notes and insanity at the bottom.













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24 thoughts on “Folk Farm: the most incredibly insane (in the best possible way) shop in Cardiff’s Arcades

  1. amy! amazing photos! where the hell is this shop and how have I not seen it before??? I AM GOING HERE ON SATURDAY and plan to spend a fortune… along with Catapult for Bonobo, GLC at Big Little City… oh my!

    • Thankyou Helia!

      It is in the Castle Arcade, just opposite Rules of Play… you won’t be able to miss it! It’s incredible, amazing, fantastic!

      If you see Chris in there, please please please tell him you came because of my post, I think he will like that :)

      Amy

  2. This set of photographs is exquisite Amy! What a place! I know where to go if I ever stuck for photoshoot props!

    Chris sounds like the hell of a character. Next time I’m in town I’ll pop in to say hello.

    • Wow, Aga! That someone like you would send me praise like this means so much to me, thankyou so much!

      It’s an incredible place, if you do pop in and say hello to him, I’m asking people to tell him that you saw him on my website. I think he will like that, and gives me something to chat about next time I say hi to him too! :D

      And what a great idea, looking for photo props in there – amazing!

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  4. Your enthusiasm for this shop really comes out in your writing in this post. I can’t believe I missed out on seeing this shop when I lived in Cardiff. Chris seems like an incredible character and this post has actually evoked homesickness for me! In a good way though : )

    You’ve been so busy. I haven’t caught up for ages because of not having the net and all but I’m going to have to sit down tonight and read everything..

    x

    • Wow Loren, that’s quite a commitment, it might take you a while :)

      Thanks for the kind comments, yep FF is completely wonderful, so many people have said kind things about this post to me, almost makes me want to do another set of pictures, I probably could actually, the amount of stuff in there ;-)

      Hope you enjoy the rest of the pics!

      x

  5. Thanks for the extra info about Chris, Amy. The dress my wife bought when we met you there went down fantastically well at the 60s themed murder mystery birthday party – as did the record I bought for our friend’s present. And our son can’t wait to go back and root around a bit more.

    • You’re welcome, Tim. It was such a joy to shoot this shop, and of course to chat to Chris. This has been by far and away the most popular post since starting the project, hundreds of views on the day it went up and lots more since. So pleased to have something so fantastic right in the city centre.

      I can’t wait to go back and hear more great tales!

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  9. Me & my son visited the shop yesterday for the first time – couldn’t believe I hadn’t spotted it before. It makes you smile as soon as you walk in doesn’t it! So it was great to find your piece today & read more about Chris :-) & fab pics as always!

  10. hey just came across your blog on walesblogawards, my step brother is nominated in your category – garuff.com.
    i love this post! nice find. cant believe ive never seen this shop it looks brill. love your idea of showcasing the cardiff arcades! cool to see people blogging to show off bits of welsh history and culture instead of just fashion and everyday life (not saying i dont also enjoy these themes haha) so yeah well done girl! good luck with the awards
    X

    • Thanks for your kind words =)

      It’s an amazing shop, and it’s recently changed its name to the Brickish Empire – I think I might pop along later today to see if Chris is about for a chat. I’d highly recommend if you have a spare hour or two that you spend some time in there, he’ll tell you all about his amazing life and you’ll come away happy! :D

      Good luck to your brother too! x

  11. Every time I went past this shop it was always closed, I was itching to go in. I went to see if it was open yesterday.
    Its now closed down.
    I was very upset I didnt get to explore the chaos

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  14. Yes the shop has closed down… which is a great shame as it was absolutely amazing. I shall cherish what I bought from there and fingers crossed Mr Brick will lay his hat down somewhere else, and set up shop again

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