Dockerills: BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS
I have a worrying fascination for old fashioned ironmongers - 'er, that's the shops, not the people! I'm not quite sure what it is about them as I'll never get around to using 99% of what they stock. I rather think it's the huge variety of shiny things on display. Compartmentalized and intriguing like some mysterious, chocolate stuffed advent calendar there are plenty of items you might never have seen before or even believed existed. In most peoples' everyday lives one seldom gets the chance to study an impressive array of brass letterboxes of porcelain doorknobs - well, a postman does, but only one at a time.
This is definitely the shop to visit when you are suffering from one of those "If only I had a ...." moments. You can fill in the gap yourselves but this might include - doorstop, decent lock, spare key, bulb for my torch, stencil paintbrush, a brass number 3 etc
This is the shop where overheard conversations often begin, "Have you got one of those things that slips under that bit that sticks out from underneath those funny..." You get my drift? Luckily there are plenty of knowledgable staff on hand to help you put into words exactly what it is you might be after.
Shop opening times.
Monday - Friday: 8 a.m to 5:30 pm
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
What to buy: One of those things that slips under...
What to pay: Pence to pounds.
Infinity Foods: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!
My how this place has changed! Back in the 1970s you would walk into this shop uncertain whether you'd end up with agitprop or aubergines - but nowadays the emphasis is most certainly on the latter. As somebody who has been an eager supporter of the organic/green movement for many years, I always appreciated their stand if not their dress code. I wanted the alternative energy but not the hard left political posters that used to be dotted around the walls. For this was an earthy workers cooperative with vision and a desire to mix food and politics. Ultimately as it 'wholefoods' became more than a food fad they must have realised that they were in the business of competing with supermarkets and needed to freshen up their image. So although they have the same communal spirit they have been well and truly clutched to the bosom of trendy Brighton and have the shop interiors to match.
Basically you need to head here for all sorts of foodstuffs with the emphasis on the natural. Wholefoods, organic, gluten-free, free trade, lactose intolerent, vegetarian and an excellent fresh veg and bakery section - it's all here. Well almost! As long standing vegetarians I don't think they sell meat. To quote their mission statement:
"We believe that it is our responsibility to provide food that is as far as possible, natural and unadulterated, free from GM and hydrogenated fat, organic and 'Fairtrade' accredited and sourced from companies with high ethical standards. As well as trading and building relations with producers and suppliers in developing countries, we are equally as committed to sourcing as much as possible locally. We aim for a fair and just business practice with all of our trading partners, suppliers and producers and in turn, our customers."
But please don't think they're giving it away! if you're expecting them to be as cheap as supermarkets then think again. Their is a cost to having high ideals.
Open between the hours of 9.30am-6pm Monday to Saturday and from 11am-5pm Sundays.
What to buy: if you're peckish head straight for the bakery section and grab a slice of their delicious vegetarian pizza. Even the gluten free one is wonderful!
- Food and Dining
Colin Page Antiquarian Bookshop: ANTIQUARIAN BOOKS - READ IN TOOTH AND CLAW
Like the very best antiquarian bookshops, Colin Page has an impressively decent stock of books and a large number of cubby holes in which to search for them. Customers walking in off the street need not fear being sneered at for paying the few pence asked for a used paperback from the outside stall. Similarly, those in search of older tomes can feel free to ask for specific volumes they've been hopelessly searching the world for - the owners/shop assistants will not bite and you may be lucky! Browsing is more than acceptable and - like an iceberg - there is more shop below than is visible above. Plenty of stock is situated in the basement at the bottom of a splendid cast iron spiral staircase and more valuable books located in an assortment of 'back rooms' can, under certain circumstances - dealer, good customer, knowledgeable collector - be viewed upon request. I've been graced with this honour for many years now, though frankly I'm still amazed that I deserve it!
By the way, don't bother asking for Colin Page. Although still with us, he retired from ownership of the shop a few years back and younger owners (I use the term advisedly) are at the helm - and, may I add, very decent chaps they are too. I hate to praise the blighters but this really is one of the top antiquarian bookshops in the United Kingdom.
What to buy: Books, paperbacks, volumes, tomes, manuscripts etc etc
What to pay: From under a pound to thousands!
- Arts and Culture
Dave's Comics: LIFE AFTER SUPERMAN!
As far as I'm aware, Dave's Comics is the only comic shop in Brighton. Not, I must to add, the only shop that sells comics but most certainly the only one that's dedicated to them. For those not in the know the idea of a shop specialising in comics must seem rather odd because after all, aren't they just for kids? Well no. Or rather, yes and no!
Comics as cartoonish fun have developed mightily over the years. The weekly children's comics like the Dandy (1937) and the Beano (1938) are still wiith us but are very much the stock in trade of your local newsagents. Shops like Dave's deal in the publications which developed in their wake: Batman and Superman of the American DC comics and the increasingly popular darker, novelisations that grew in recent decades. Comics and their Japanese cousins Manga cover a range of subjects from politics to sexuality, adventure and fantasy. they can be ridiculous and lighthearted or look into darker areas like the holocaust. The range of subject matter and artistic sttles is extraordinary and shops like this allow you to dip in and test the water.
Do if you fancy some light or dark reading pop in here and you'll be amazed what you'll find. Comparatively few children but a lot of adults of all ages sharing their enjoyment of graphic novels and the merchandising that goes with them. Figurines etc also figure as do some older collectible comics which are displayed for sale. To be honest, even if you go in and simply gaze at al the covers on display you'll have a fascinating time browsing. If you're buying presents for children do take a more careful look at what you're buying as some 'comics' can be very adult in flavour with a surprising degree of mature content - sex, bad language and violence.
What to buy: ...'er, comics?
What to pay: From pence to pounds! Actually, more likely pounds...
- Study Abroad
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- Arts and Culture
Vegetarian Shoes: GOOD FOR THE SOLE!
There can't be many shoe shops that close their offices because they have to attend the Glastonbury Festival but this my friends is one of them. The owners have done such a grand job of making it's name so transparently obvious that the penalty for failing to guess what they sell should be death. Vegetarian Shoes. that's it. It does what it says on the (recycled) tin! established in 1990 as a shop offering hand made alternatives to leather, it now outsources the manufacturing and also deal worldwide by mail order. A large range of different shoe styles are kept in stock from hiking boots to sneakers - and as long as it's never mooed, they'll sell it!
Shop hours: 10 to 6 Monday To Saturday. 12 to 6 Wednesdays. Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.
What to pay: Some sandals £30. Average shoe prices are around the £60 mark. Other styles higher again.
Specs: BRING ME THE BIFOCALS OF ALFREDO GARCIA!
This establishment has to be the perfect example of what Brighton does best. It takes an ordinary enough concept - in this case an opticians - and puts a slightly off-centre spin on it. More than that, it ensures that whatever it does - in this case, the provision of 'seeing equipment' for people who are making a bit of a mess of it - and pours a generous dollop of style and fashion consciousness all over it.
Take the shop display. Actually don't, because that would be stealing! Just look at the shop display and those fanged skulls wearing the specs. Now are these the remains of customers who preferred National Health Service frames to Gucci specials or is it simply a ploy to welcome shortsighted vampires and werewolves into the bosom of the community? Either way, you've got to admire 'em. You just don't see lycanthropes at Specsavers!
What to buy: Specs, spectacles, spectacular spectacles, contact lenses and associated products.
What to pay: The more fashion conscious you are, the more you'll pay.
Daydream Nation: PICK A CARD!
Daydream Nation is a curious gem hidden amongst the shops of Brighton's 'New Laines' area. It is so unassuming that you will initially have trouble finding it but raise your eyes above head height (unless you have them on stalks already) and there, on the first floor of a trendy t-shirt emporium called Re-Load, you will find one of the city's smallest but perfectly formed shopping outlets.
What does it sell? Cards! But not Christmas or Birthday cards - collectors trading cards. The offspring of those given away with bubblegum in the 1960s (Ah, god bless 'Batman' and the 'American Civil War' sets!) manufacturers soon came to realize that it was the gum that most resembled cardboard and that it was the cards themselves that kids were after. Swapping in the playground became a manic actiivity and the growth of children's television and computer games helped stoke the fire of the trading card community. Nowadays trading card sets are issued for a wide variety of subjects - many of them TV, Film and cult classic spin offs. Oft have I clambered up the stairs in pursuit of my children and their desire to gaze upon the latest set of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic cards...and no, I still can't beat 'em at the games they're designed to play. Like so may bewildered parents I am simply content to look at the pictures - and particularly when the sets include Bond girls and the delightful Lft. Uhuru from Star Trek.
It goes without saying that the spread of popular culture now means that trading cards are not merely the preserve of children. Far from it. The card games you can play with these sets have spawned a number of tournament driven clubs and you are as likely to see as many if not more customers over 20 as under it. Modesty and the threat of violence forbids me from betraying which age group the owner falls into but needless to say she is approachable, friendly and helpful...and the cheque is hopefully in the post.
An excellent port of call for a purchase designed to restore peace and quiet on a day when the children think everything is 'boring'.
What to buy: Individual cards, small packets of cards, big collectors boxes of cards and shiny tins of cards...ooh, and card containers, covers and a few other cult games too.
What to pay: From pence to pounds. From pocket money to wages spent when your other half isn't looking!
- Family Travel
- School Holidays
The Guitar, Amp and Keyboard Centre: BEAUX STRINGS
The Guitar, Amp and Keyboard Centre - otherwise known to all and sundry as 'GAK' - basically describes itself. Apart from the fact that it appears to have missed out drums - but that's because they are in it's adjacent premises - t's basically a large shop with a warren of rooms stuffed with a variety of pop/rock band instruments of all shapes costs and sizes. It genuinely took me some months before I realized that there was a separate acoustic guitar department at the top of a little hidden stairway! Some departments are in different shops on North Street but they are basically either next to or near each other.
The main guitar shop is by far the largest with one of the largest selection of instruments you're likely to see in the UK. The store is open every day (not sure about public holidays though) with weekends favourite for children, students and worried parents assessing their bank balances. As a rule of thumb, if you want to be certain of one-to-one service and a decent amount of time to tinker with the guitars then go Monday to Friday before 3pm, which is when the schools throw their charges back onto the streets.
If you don't know what you're talking about then things might seem a tad intimidating. Although they have their fair smattering of grumpy 'I could have been the next Eric Clapton' staff, most are helpful and friendly and will demonstrate or allow you to try out products. But as i said, expect a long wait if you hit the shop at peak times over a weekend.
What to buy: Well, if you're not into musical instruments this probably isn't the place for you!
Be aware that their website (which I've listed below) only gives you a small smattering of the stock. In addition the items are often offered at lower prices than those in the shop because they don't have the overheads or provide the same degree of aftercare support as the shop does. Do not expect them to match the internet prices! Going at it like a bull in a china shop will get a rebuttal. Being aware of their internet 'best price' and being friendly will often get you a further discount though.
What to pay: Well probably from 50p for a guitar pick to thousands of pounds for a rare custom guitar! Something for everyone.
Various: Cheerful tourist tat !
I know we are all slightly snobby about cheap tourist tat ; ) but sometimes it is kind of fun to pick up this kind of thing, especially if you are coming from a completely different culture.
On the seafront in Brighton, there are numerous tourist shops of this description selling everything from Brighton rock (awful, sticky sweet stuff that rots your teeth) to union flag plates, cufflinks, fridge magnets, t-towels, socks and such the like. I bought a Union flag (which used to be called the Union'Jack') plate for my Venezuelan aunt in one of thes store recently and she loved it! These shops are also good if you have small children who love bright shiney things.
My friend 'Aunty Wife' and I, used to have a competition to see who could find the most ugly and tacky souvenir. I think she won, with a disgusting beige egg cup with three flying ducks painted on, bought from our fair city some years ago before we lived here . Then again, I did return from Paris once with an electric pink sponge in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and featuring a thermometer in its center ; )
Anyway, as I say, stroll along the seafront if you fancy having some fun looking for these 'objects of desire', to the left of the Palace Pier (as you are facing the sea) is the best spot in my experience.
- Women's Travel
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Various: Second hand books
"Antiques & Fleamarket in the heart of the North Laine in the city with up to 70 dealers stocking furniture,silver,pictures, collectibles,books and so much more with something for everyone"
You can find a large selction of second hand books here in Brighton. They are usually in very good condition and a fraction of the new price. So if you want a beach read to leave behind while on your travels without spending £10 or more, try these tips for a bargain.
The place I usually go for some holiday reading, is the antique and flea market in the North Laine. Apart from the fact it is in the funky North Laines, under cover and has piles of other stuff to look at, they have a pretty good quality second hand book stall. A great place for a rummage. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm; Sun 10am-4pm
Another good place in the North Laine, is the Oxfam secondhand bookstore.
(I will grab a photo when I next go)
What to buy: Books and second hand jewelry.
Retro stuff etc
- Study Abroad
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Women's Travel
Retail Therapy: Treat Yourself (or friend!) To Some Retail Therapy
Just as the name suggests, this shop offers the wonderful concept of both Retail and Therapy....
What to buy: There are many unusual and original gift and household items on offer for you to buy, each one lovingly crafted from recycled materials.... also, there is a therapy area - offering massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, Indian head massage, Swedish massage, Reiki and more..
What to pay: There is a real personal touch in this shop, and making a gift purchase needn't stretch the purse strings too much either - some items start from around a pound.
- Budget Travel
The Brighton Bead Shop: Beads, Beads, Beads...
Probably the best small bead shop in the South East of England. (Speaking as a big bead fan here!)
A wide range of beads, tons of inspirational creations and ideas to get your creative juices flowing...
Beads are imported from the Far East, India, USA and Europe. Staff are always welcoming and helpful, offering advice and suggestions to get you started in your beadmaking creations.
What to buy: Beads, of course!!!
Also there are some books and accessories available.
What to pay: prices start at only 1 penny for a single bead.... pick and mix as many as you like :)
- Arts and Culture
Various: North Laines
If you are looking for a slightly more unusual shopping experience I would advise you to head to North Laines. There is usually a street market operating, also there could be some street performers to entertain you whilst you bustle you way through the area. There are some nice little one off cafes to enjoy lunch in.
Vegetarian Shoes: If you're a PETA person, you'll love this!
This shop is at the "lanes" in Brighton. The shoes are a little expensive, but they are made out of a synthetic, breathable fabric. No animals were harmed to make them...and they don't make you're feet all nasty and sweaty like pleather shoes!
Brighton Bead Shop: Make your own accessories!
An Aladdins cave - a treasture trove! The Brighton Bead Shop is just a great place to buy all kinds of glorious little plastic, metal, bone or wooden drops of rainbow technicolor and make them into something individual and personal for just a FEW PENCE!! The beads come in all shapes and sizes and even though you may already have had an idea of something you want to make, once you get in there you will be inspired by the designs and styles of beads available and be spoilt for choice. At anything from 1p to 1.50p per bead - you can have a field day in here!!!!!!
They also supply everything you could possibly need to make necklaces, and earrings, including the leather or plastic thong (25p per meter!), clasps, hooks and long nosed pliers. There are helpful assistants who give all the advice you might need.
What to buy: Beads, beads and more beads!!!
What to pay: just a few pence to a few pounds - depends on the amount of beads you want!!
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