Sweet treats, magical music and delightful decorations all under one roof are being offered as traders in a city centre arcade pull together to make it a cracking Christmas.
Many of the businesses in the city centre arcade only launched during the first lockdown in 2020 and saw their celebrations last Christmas hampered by the continuing impact of Covid.
Now, with the lights and window displays enhancing the festive feel, they’re being joined in making 2021 a Christmas to remember by shoppers who are shunning the online option and heading for the quality and character of local independent businesses.
Shannon Bean, whose family runs Nordic Rosie and Paper Rosie in Paragon Arcade, said: “Black Friday has brought a reminder that last year a lot of people did their Christmas shopping online because they couldn’t leave home. There’s been a different vibe this year and people have been a lot more open to shopping small.
“They have been coming in and telling us how much they’ve enjoyed going out, and we’ve had a lot of comments about how nice the Arcade looks because last year it didn’t really get a chance to shine.”
Charlie Broomfield, owner of Homestead Store, said: “Everyone in the Arcade gels nicely and you could potentially do all your Christmas gift shopping down here with coffee and wine from Two Gingers, the record shop, sweet treats from Milchig and White Rabbit, flowers, baby clothes, homewares and furniture. It's everything down one street with its own roof!”
During the first lockdown of 2020 Two Gingers Coffee House had a makeover and White Rabbit Chocolatier added a first floor café. When the Arcade reopened after lockdown it unveiled Nordic Rosie selling homeware and nursery items and Out of the Attic Music, selling music memorabilia, CDs and increasing amounts of vinyl.
Shannon and her family then opened Nordic Rosie, selling an array of quirky and stylish stationery, cards, paper and prints.
Other additions were Three Blind Mice tattoo parlour, Neon Velvet brow bar and Milchig, selling things made with milk – ice cream, cakes, cookies and brownies all made on the premises.
They added to an array of existing tenants including Milk hair salon, Belle and Benjamin babywear, Koda Interiors and Homestead Store, who all arrived during the year after Allenby Commercial acquired the Arcade and embarked on a major renovation. PJ barbers shop and Flower Corner were already there and have stayed.
With a stylish restaurant at The Hispanist and a new dining concept at Holy Brunch, Paragon Arcade is pulling in people who like to shop, break for a drink or a bite, and shop again.
Charlie said: “Last year we missed the run up to Christmas because of the restrictions and even this year we weren’t able to hold our Christmas wreath-making event but we’re taking part in the late-night shopping and we’ve all got some very nice, hand-picked gift options that shoppers won’t find anywhere else – even online.”
Andy Sparrow and Gary Matfin have added to their regular music offer with Beatles Christmas jumpers and a wide range of festive records including the new 'Now That’s What I Call Christmas' compilation of three albums in snowy white vinyl featuring songs by Wham, Elton John, Wizzard, Nat King Cole and more.
But, in the face of a worldwide vinyl shortage, the pair are also promoting their used records and their cleaning service.
Andy said: “The shortage is affecting the supply of new records and that gives people an opportunity to rediscover some old classics. All our used records are professionally cleaned by us and people can also bring in their own records if they want us to freshen-up their vinyl collection.”
Ellen Crabtree, owner of Belle and Benjamin, said customers are calling in to buy babywear so they can make their own big decisions on matters of size and softness.
She said: “When you are shopping for babies’ clothes you want to see the quality and feel how soft things are and you also want to make sure the size is just right. We have proper conversations with customers to make sure they get exactly what they want, and that’s how we all work in Paragon Arcade.”