Christmas in the Arcades: Vintage festivity in Hubbard’s Cupboard

In this second installment of Christmas specials, I take a look at Hubbard’s Cupboard.

I photographed the shop a few weeks ago, but at Christmas they’ve decided to go all out and the store is looking beautifully vintagely (is that a word?) festive.

You can pick up all kinds of treats and goodies in the shop, including lots of handmade decorations (I think my favourite are the birds and owls) and beautiful Christmas cards from local designers.

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Hubbard’s Cupboard: vintage fun in the High Street Arcade

It’s funny how much the High Street Arcade has changed since I first started doing this project.

Several shops have disappeared from this arcade, but happily, some more have appeared.

One of the new additions, opening just over a month ago is Hubbard’s Cupboard, another vintage shop new to the Cardiff shopping scene.
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Vintage Zizou: Beautiful, colourful, delicious clothes and jewellery in the Castle Arcade

It always thrills me to see a new shop opening up in the arcades, so full of hope and exciting spirit – and none possess this more so than the beautiful new vintage shop which can be found in the Castle Arcade.

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Joie de Vivre: Beautiful bits and bobs in the Royal Arcade

It’s actually been quite a while since I strolled into the beautiful shop that is Joie de Vivre in the Royal Arcade. I’d first noticed the shop back in April when it was still a work in progress. Gazing through the windows as the shop took shape, I knew it would be a place that I’d want to photograph as soon as possible.

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A Vintage Affair: Cornucopia of retro delights in the Morgan Arcade

Unless you’re living under a pretty hefty rock, it can’t really have failed to escape your notice that vintage is BIG right now. Heard of little show called Mad Men, anyone? Anyway, I digress… A Vintage Affair in Morgan Arcade caters to those looking for their fill of lovely clothes, pretty teacups, gorgeous jewellery and pretty much everything else in between. There’s only one rule, ‘I usually only accept items from before the 1980s’, says owner Melanie King. So if you’re looking to offload any of your own items, bear that in mind.

The shop itself has been there only around a year or so, taking up the empty shop Rouge left behind (recognise the wallpaper?) and was originally run by 3 different sellers. Now the only Mel from the original trio is left, she is joined by Edwin Dyson, well-known in the city as the creator of the Blind Lemon Vintage Fair who supplies the line of men’s clothing which can be found upstairs.

It’s important to note the presence of menswear in the shop, undercatered as the sartorially sophisticated males of the city seem to be, especially in the vintage market. It’s nice to know that there are certain hotspots which they can find something to pick up (others include Looby Loos and Hobo’s, both in High Street Arcade).

Setting up the shop, owner Mel wanted it to be a little different from a traditional shop, with something to look at in every corner. Resulting in a pleasing ‘wow’ as you enter the door, I wager you could probably spend days in here and see something new with every glance. In short, a haven for those who like to rummage to find a hidden treasure or two.

Since its launch, Mel tells me its been popular. Indeed, when I visited it was pretty tricky to get any empty shop photos, having to sneak them in wherever possible. Obviously its wares are a popular subject, but it’s also helpful It’s situated in a pretty neat spot, next to the famous Plan and within a few metres of the infamous Spillers Records. It also benefits from being not too far from the regenerated Hayes/St David’s area, and is surely a welcome diversion from the more sterile environment of the bigger chain shops that surround it.

Way back when (that’s what people say when they don’t know the exact date, right?), Mel tells me it was a Sarsaparilla Bar. Still she gets older people popping their head round the door to tell her all about its former days selling it to the locals.

Sourcing her goods from a myriad of places including vintage fairs and customers bringing stuff in to sell, Mel tells me of the time she visited an Aladdin’s-cave of an old house packed to the rafters with (very) old magazines, clothes, accessories and crockery. Heaven for her shop, and my mind instantly wonders exactly how many photos I’d take in a place like that (rough estimate: 12 billion).

To me, the three (four if you count Folk Farm) vintage shops in the arcades complement each other perfectly, because they’re not really competing with each other. Looby Loo’s is the place to go for clothes, with its rails of elegant finery, whereas A Vintage Affair, although selling a few clothes, is probably more about the accessories, the jewellery, the ‘bits’ and Hobo’s, well that’s just a world of its own that really has nothing like it.

So next time you’re picking up a rare vinyl from Spillers, or treating yourself to a delicious brunch in The Plan, why not pop across to A Vintage Affair and see what you can find. Warning – I take no responsibility for any hours lost as you wander the rails/shelves/floor in amazement.

See below for some more pictures from A Vintage Affair. Predictably, the shutter button didn’t get much rest during this shoot so you can see a whole heap more over on this Vintage Affair Flickr set. Enjoy, share, tell me what you think in the comments box.

















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.













Arcade Bargains: February 2011

I thought I’d do a very quick post to share a few of the bargains I picked up yesterday on my arcades birthday.

Now that I’ve done it though I’m wondering if this would be good as a regular feature? Obviously I won’t always have the cash to buy all of the bargains I find, but a post every couple of weeks or so with a round-up of some great finds might be a welcome addition for Cardiff shoppers out there – let me know what you think!

Doing this project has certainly made me stop and think twice about visiting a high street chain for something, as Ben from Hobo’s pointed out when I interviewed him – in his shop you can pick up a whole outfit for £35. Even though we’re in a recession, we’re never going to stop shopping, but if we can think of ways to still treat ourselves while saving a few quid (and helping out independents!) then all the better.

There are obviously some expensive things in the arcades, but these bargains that I picked up show you that you can get something for a few pounds that not only are you likely to pay more for elsewhere, but they are also more likely to be a bit special.

Enjoy the pictures and any feedback welcome!

Thick shiny black belt from Hobo's Vintage, High Street Arcade: £5

Retro sunglasses from Hobo's Vinage: High Street Arcade: £10

Flower ring from Bejewelled, High Street Arcade: £5

Bracelet from Bejewelled, High Street Arcade: £7.50

Teaset, including teapot, cup and saucer, sugar bowl and milk jug from A Vintage Affair, Morgan Arcade: £8

Silver evening bag from A Vintage Affair: £6

Butterfly ring from Rossiter's, Royal Arcade: £4.75

Hobo’s: Down and dirty vintage in the High Street Arcade

Well where to start with this post? I’ve wanted to shoot from the very start of the project. I interviewed Ben, who set up the shop, a few years ago while I was a student and I knew the shop, being the cave of wonders that it is, would make for fantastic photographs – much like Looby Loo’s only down the road.

I mentioned to Ben that I think of Hobo’s as one of the iconic arcade shops, and his smile said it all. When I put it in the same sentence as Spillers, he couldn’t have been happier.

Hobo’s was established in 1991, but only came to Cardiff in 1994, and has been going pretty much strong ever since. Ben says that this current recession matches the one in the early 1990s, and, having a background in economics (he studied third world economics at Uni) he’s not optimistic that things are going to get much better – recession wise anyway – for a long time yet.

As you might imagine, Hobo’s is popular with the student community, so Ben worries that any change in the student finance system will have a knock on effect on his business. When he went to Uni, education was free and there were more grants available. Even when I was at Uni, it was relatively inexpensive, now it’s going to be £9,000 a year, more students might to become a bit more frugal and a new outfit might be furthest from their mind.

On the other hand, Ben reckons you can pick up a whole new outfit for around £35 in the shop – which is what you might pay for a single shirt in somewhere like Topshop, so it’s definitely a good alternative for those feeling pinch.

You could be forgiven for thinking that a place like Hobo’s would fit the trend for all things vintage right now, but Ben reckons that what’s actually in trend right now is a much more sanitised version of vintage. Think pretty teacups, 50s cocktail dresses, Mad Men, you get the picture. You won’t really find any of this stuff in Hobo’s, it’s a much more down and dirty version of vintage, where you might find a 70s teapot (sans flowers) rather than a dainty little china teacup.

In recent times, Ben says there has been much less footfall through the High Street Arcade, but isn’t too concerned. When Primark first opened on Queen Street a few years ago, the sales in Hobo’s plummeted, almost overnight, apparently, but eventually people came back. He reckons the same will happen after St David’s has been open for a bit longer – right now everything is new, shiny and exciting. He’s happy that so many people think of Hobo’s as a destination though. He recounts stories to me of teenagers from the Valleys, Newport and pretty much everywhere telling him they come to Cardiff with Hobo’s their first calling point.

For now at least, Hobo’s is sticking around. It’s clear Ben loves his job, who wouldn’t enjoy chilling out in their own shop being surrounded by what is essentially one big hobby (and listening to some amazing music along the way)? Long may it continue, and let’s hope for a big Hobo’s party for 20 years in 2014…

This was another shoot where I probably outstayed my welcome chatting away… so there’s probably a cavalcade of information that I’ve forgotten to include here… I’ll update if any flashes of inspiration come to me!

Enjoy the photos, don’t worry there’s more over on Flickr if you can’t get enough. As always, feedback very, very much appreciated!


The very well, if a little chaotic, stocked upstairs. I asked Ben if it was OK to take a photo of it to which he very enthusiastically replied that he though it'd make an interesting photo (woo-hoo!). I'm told there's also more in the loft and the basement...

Ben who set up Hobos seems most at home among the piles (and piles) of stock...

Pete, who works in the shop can talk for hours about his big passion - music - so if you've got a couple of hours free, pop in for a chat!

Attempting the staff stairs is very precarious....