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The emporium strikes back

What is it like to be a shop owner at the Most Marvellous emporium?

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Julie Teckman has joined the traders of Most Marvellous…

The late, great John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” and it’s a belief that has rung true to me throughout my life. Most recently, and shortly after making the decision to retire from my full-time job, plans to buy a dog and take life easier were hastily shoved to one side when I discovered that ex-colleagues, Mick and Shirlee Hayes had taken over local vintage emporium Most Marvellous on Abington Square.

If you’ve never visited it, Most Marvellous resides in an old church at the point where the Kettering and Wellingborough roads intersect and is truly an Aladdin’s cave of treasures at prices that Aladdin himself would be able to afford. My flippant comment about having cupboards full of old (and, in some cases, new) clothes I’ll never wear again, somehow resulted in an offer rent a space in the cellar of the Emporium, which is how I found myself lugging bags of clothes into my very own ‘shop’ just a couple of weeks later and becoming the newest member of the Most Marvellous community.

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The huge interest in vintage, retro and upcycling that has increased despite or, perhaps, as a result of the technological age in which we live, means that locally we now have three vintage emporia in the town itself (Most Marvellous Emporium, The Old BakeHouse in Abington Avenue and the Vintage Retreat in Lower Harding Street) with others spread out around the county including the massive Antiques Cellar in Brackley and a plethora of reclamation and restoration items for sale in Weedon. Television programmes like Money for Nothing, French Collection and all the antiquey-style shows in which fortune-hunters search for treasure amongst other people’s trash contributing to the unabated fascination we have with the past, and a morning spent at any of the vintage emporia will demonstrate the varied age range and backgrounds of customers.

There are 60 traders currently housed in the huge Emporium, and every bit of wall and floor space is heaving with household objects and pre-loved clothing in a stunning visual display of nostalgia and recent fashion history. Browsing can take a very long time as one moves between traders and through the nooks and crannies that house yet more items, many of which will bring back memories of childhood and teenage years. Considering a lamp made out of copper piping? There’s plenty to choose from. Searching for shabby chic garden containers? Masses of choice. Unusual storage? Sorted!

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At a time when most of us are having to spread our financial resources ever thinner, the desire to find bargains that will enhance our homes, make creative gifts or offer the opportunity to upcycle, restore and re-use items that might previously have been thrown away is increasingly attractive. For those of us who enjoy the shopping experience, the combination of unusual items (check out The Mathom House and Annie Gunn), good quality products that can be given a new life as shabby or industrial chic home-wear and the knowledgeable, friendly staff who really enjoy helping customers find the perfect item makes for an engaging guilt-free mooch. From the funky tee-shirts and retro sweets at the front of the shop, to the labyrinth of clothes’ areas in the cellar, there really is something for everybody and prices start from just a few pence so if you start the new year broke but needing to feed a shopping addiction, you can’t really go far wrong here.
But back to my new venture.

I moved into my little cellar area at the beginning of November with grand plans to install a chandelier to show off the brick walls, floor and ceiling to best advantage but realised that with a ceiling height of under three metres, this would not be a practical option, so instead I opted for fairy lights and gilt mirrors to brighten up the little room.

I quickly learned from the other traders that the key to success is to cram your area as full of stock as possible and to keep stock updated because the Emporium attracts many regular customers who like to browse for new booty. Matthew Lewis, owner of Darcy’s Delights Retro Sweet store and the Hayes’ right-hand man, gave me an induction into pricing and displaying my stock to best advantage, before casting his expert eye over my handiwork. His knowledge of each and every trader means that he can easily direct customers to exactly what they are looking for, although perusing the whole place is definitely recommended.

Some of the other clothes shops specialise in pure vintage which is always popular. Whether selling to vintage purists or simply customers looking for vintage for themed parties, traders like Dulcie Britain, Nutshell Vintage and Reviver combine retro style with ‘wearability’ for both men and women. From faux fur to hand knit jumpers they are awash with stylish and funky items for all ages. I decided to call myself Vintage2Versace to reflect that my clothes range from genuine vintage from the sixties and seventies to pre-loved fashion from the more recent past.

Running my little ‘shop’ has taught me so much already. I’m getting better at locating stock that will appeal to my customers and then displaying it so that visitors get an appealing first look at my wares. With help from Matthew, I’m learning more about using social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, to promote individual items and increase awareness of my presence in the Emporium. Every week I make sure I move stock around and add new pieces from my weekly buying sprees. It’s taken a while to work out what is most likely to sell and how best to set prices and, again, I’ve looked to the more experienced traders around me to give me a guide to pricing.

I’m not expecting to earn a fortune but the joy of finding a new item of clothing that sells quickly to a delighted buyer, makes my new venture one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. There’s something really wonderful about knowing that I’ve given somebody else pleasure in buying clothes I’ve chosen. And the best thing is that, as the

Most Marvellous Emporium is completely dog-friendly, with well-behaved dogs welcomed and treated to biscuits from the behind the check-out desk, it seems that my dog-owning plan will soon be a reality too! The Most Marvellous Emporium is open seven days a week with new stock arriving daily and is really a most marvellous place to shop!

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