Retailers We Love, issue #1: UpSide Down Presents
This nice lunatic is Sean, the owner and operator of a tiny new gift boutique near Newcastle's Quayside. Sean, this is everybody.
These pictures are a result of an encounter with a bag of silly hats and two cartons of ice cream, which accompanied our photo shoot for the October issue of GT.
Next month's column - did I mention I'm a columnist for Greetings Today magazine, past archive available online, no paparazzi please, autographs by the stage door? - is on the growing Spring of brand new retail outlets popping up like mushrooms all over the country, which is at least partly notable for its non-London-centric basis. I've drawn all sorts of factually questionable conclusions about how this trend reflects on the current economic situation and the effect of such growth on small publishers such as My World. It's all very grown up and exciting.
What is also exciting, albeit considerably less grown up, is one of the ventures I used to illustrate my point: UpSide Down Presents, a tiny quirky stylish weirdo establishment that opened up a few months ago in a hole in the wall under a bridge.
You think I'm kidding. I'm not; this strangely shaped little alcove is tucked away at the base of a railway arch, next to the Dog Leap Stairs that are said to bring luck to any affianced couple who manage to run all the way from bottom to top without breaking hands. (I made that up.) It hasn't got a back room, gas, water, any storage space or toilet facilities. Sean closes for fifteen minutes at lunchtime to nip across the road and use the necessary at the pub opposite. I promise I'm not making this up.
It's a totally mad venue that seems only appropriate for a thoroughly unconventional business-owner. Sean has never owned or run a shop before; from what I can gather he was originally looking for an office space from which to operate as a freelance graphic designer*, but when he came across number 61 on Newcastle's Side he decided that, given such a central and street-facing location, he might as well open a shop that could function as his office too.
Y'know, as you do.
The enclosure behind the till, therefore, is filled with formidably high-tech computy-type equipment and a bangin' sound-system, which has been powering out some pretty great music every time I've been in there. (He seems like the kind of guy who would do requests.) I say 'enclosure' with good reason, since the other unusual aspect of UpSide Down Presents is the benevolent presence of Oscar, the world's most adorable border terrier, who spends much of his time either sleeping in his tiny adorable kennel or standing on his tiny adorable hind legs behind his picket fence and making tiny adorable whimpering sounds until you fuss him.
<------- I WANT TO EAT HIM UP WITH A BIG SPOON.
Oscar is clearly the power behind the throne, and treated our be-hatted shenanigans with the weary indulgence of an affectionate parent. His influence extends to the stock, which includes posh-looking doggy food locally made in Northumberland. Local-made is a big thing for Sean, whose regionally sourced merch ranges from photographs and prints to teabags and ice cream. My Northern bias thoroughly approves.
All in all, a thoroughly worthwhile venture, and one highly recommended to any Toon-based wanderers in need of a quirky gift or a good laugh. You can follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or just go find them at 61 The Side, Newcastle NE1 3JE.
*I think? We had this conversation about three weeks ago and I was mostly too busy eating the ice cream I scrounged off him to take proper notes. Anyway, Sean - for the purposes of this article, you're a freelance graphic designer.