20.7.11

Aladdin's Cave Norwich - prepare to be amazed....

*just a not to say that since writing this,the shop has moved. It's still on the same road and it's right next to the bridge (walking towards Anglia Square. You can't miss it!)



Aladdin's Cave is in a building formerly known as Looses, which is a household name in Norwich, located on Magdalen Street.  Indeed, I remember visiting Looses with my Nan as a small child.  My memory of this shop is of it being huge with lots to see.  Looses shut some years ago - a major loss to this part of the city.  For the last couple of years, the building has been a walk-around store for antique/vintage gems, with several sellers each having a section to sell their wares.  When the lease ran out in 2010, there was a real danger that it would all come to an end and this part of the city would once again end up with another empty shop. 


Fortunately, Graham, who up to that point had simply been one of the many sellers trading from the store, saw vast potential in the set-up.  With his business partner, Rob, he decided to take a huge leap of faith and sign a new lease on the whole building.  And so, in April 2010, the shop re-launched as Aladdin's Cave.


Graham very kindly gave up some of his time to have a chat with me - and this is one busy guy.  During our chat, several people needed to talk to him about all manner of things, from money to buying stock.  Graham is very hands-on in this business - he lives and breathes it - from sweeping the floors and doing the bins, to looking after the traders.  What I also love is that although Graham isn't from Norwich originally, he has an obvious passion for the city.  I knew straight away we were obviously going to get along!

Also in attendance during my chat with Graham was a local busker, better known for busking as Elvis.  Anyone who follows me on Twitter may recall me tweeting one Saturday that I had tea made by Elvis!!  So there I was, sat in the sun, drinking tea with "Elvis" and Graham, talking about vintage, blogging and Norwich - not a bad way to spend a Saturday, hey?

Graham, a former construction worker, started in the antiques trade in 1999.  A friendship with an antique dealer led to Graham doing some restoration work, giving him the inspiration and the knowledge effectively to change direction in life.  Graham told me about what happened when the lease expired in 2010.  He told me that he sat in a meeting with the other traders, took a draw on his cigarette, and reached the decision that maybe Magdalen Street was meant for him.  I'm not sure I can disagree with that thought at all!



I put it to him that in my opinion it wasn't an exaggeration to declare that Aladdin's Cave was responsible for revitalising this sometimes neglected part of the city.  Graham is obviously very proud of what's been achieved here - it really is a wonderous sight to see all the treasures that have been brought together under one roof. 

Notice the white 50's foot stool on the sofa, in the bottom left hand picture? You will see this again later....

 There are currently thirty-four independent traders in the shop, with a waiting-list to get a trading-space.  There is such a variety of goods - pianos, wardrobes, chairs, clothes, bags, china - you name it, it's there. (In fact this is where I got my delightful teal green dress that I wore to the cocktail part, which you can read about by clicking here) Aladdin's Cave have also hired items out to students and drama groups and it has become the go-to place if you need props or inspiration.  It's all set out as a big open-plan shop, with a central till, so you can browse for as long as you wish.  There's nothing pretentious about this place - nothing stuffy or snooty - which is perhaps something you may expect when the words "antique" and "shopping" are involved.  It's a really welcoming atmosphere - there's a friendly, almost community, spirit.  When you combine all this fabulousness with the fact that the variety is plentiful and the prices are affordable, the only decision you need to make is when to visit. 


If your eyes, heart and purse/wallet can cope with even more gems, then I would recommend you visit on a Saturday.  Back in June 2010, Graham and Rob launched a weekly flea-market above the shop, utilising a previously wasted space.  There's currently fifty-two regular stall-holders and, again, the variety is huge.  The queue on Saturday mornings builds as people wait for the doors to open. 


There's plenty of stuff for the boys, too.  You'll find stall-holders with fantastic vintage men's fashion.  One that caught my eye was a regular stall called "Lost Property".  They've been trading in the flea-market since last November.  I was amazed to see shirts still in packets and some amazing record-players.  Whilst taking some photos, I found myself watching a little boy who looked amazed at one of the record-players in action.  I wonder what he was thinking?



I really need to add a record player to the wish list I think...
 My favourite seller who I met on the day is a very beautiful and classy lady called Marigold.  Her stall is made up mainly of her own clothes, from the 40s through to the 80s.  I won't reveal her age but I'm sure you can do the maths and work out that this lady is of an age where she has seen a lot - and my goodness she has done a lot!



Marigold is an ex-ballet dancer, who has travelled the world.  She was a dancer in the Astor Club in Berkeley Square and also a window dresser.  There's a really beautiful selection of clothes, shoes and bags on her stall.  What's fascinating is that Marigold is happy to chat about the history of them very openly.  She says that she loves them all and it's lovely to see that the people who are buying them love them too.

The orange dress in the top right hand corner was designed by Marigold and made especially for her in the 70's, the floral kitten heeled shoes in the bottom left hand corner were bought by Marigold when she worked in Harrod's
 Marigold went on to say that customers have come back to tell her where they've worn them and she seems to like knowing that their history lives on and they're still being enjoyed.  Thoughtfully, Marigold has made a screen to enable shoppers to try her clothes on before they buy.  The back of the screen actually has photos of Marigold herself wearing some of the clothes that are or have been on the stall at all kinds of events during her life. 

Marigold wore this dress during her time as a dancer at the Astor Club in the 60's. In fact she wore it when footballer Bobby Charlton visited the club and Marigold had to kiss his head for a photograph!

Marigold herself was a little camera-shy, so I can only suggest you go to the flea-market and go and see for yourself what a beautiful, classy and very friendly lady Marigold is!   


The vintage scene in Norwich has really boomed in the last few years, thanks to the vision of people like Graham.  He told me that he see his weekly flea-market stall-holders as "little acorns" because several of them have gone on to open their own shops elsewhere. With an article about the Norwich vintage scene being in published in The Times newspaper in April, and Aladdin's cave actually being named as a place to go and visit, Graham believes that Norwich has the right feel and vibe to enable it to develop as a "destination", similar to Brighton.  Given the number of "acorns" there seem to be around the city at the moment, who would bet against him? (Norwich is less than two hours from London by train, with this shop being within a 30 minute stroll from Norwich train station)


Oh, and the white 1950s foot-stool I told you to keep an eye on?  You may have guessed actually ended up coming home with me.  I'm a sucker for an atomic leg.  I also bought a beautiful suitcase from the flea-market - I don't think a girl can ever have enough vintage suitcases!  They'll come in very handy when The Boy kicks me out of home for bringing home too may treasures.....

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7 comments

  1. Oh oh why cant I win the lotto and come to UK and visit this place and buy all Marigolds items?
    Making me drool girl making me drool.

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  2. What a fab post. I would love to visit Aladdin's Cave...I would be just like that kid in the candy store...

    p.s. I am totally in love with Marigold's most gorgeous name x

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  3. Wow, Missy V, one fabulous pic after the other. I'm off to Norfolk this weekend. Must get my friend to take me there. Gorgeous footstool btw!

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  4. That looks like my dream shop. Those green platform mules, oh my goodness, if Norwich wasn't the other end of the country they'd be mine. x

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  5. Wow what a wonderful post, and that shop really is a beautiful Aladdin's cave i don't think i would ever want to leave. You described it all so beautifully. I love the fact that everything vintage has a story and a previous owner that is part of the beauty and the magic for me. Ie a dress or a bag i always get carried away and wonder who it was and where she was going, especialy when i find a bus ticket inside ;-) Love your footstool. And i would love to own that TV i spotted what a piece of art. I would love to meet Marigold she sounds like a wonderful interesting lady. dee x

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  6. I'm so jealous!! I want to go to Marigold's booth, especially. I love those green and white heels!!

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  7. Blimey- how on earth did I miss this post! I blooming adore Aladdin's Cave. I have bought so many delights from there. My parents go every saturday for the fleamarket, and they take me every time I'm back in Norwich for a visit.

    So nice to find out a little of the background of the place, thank you!

    And finally, I know for what purpose I have all those vintage suitcases for. Tee hee!

    xxx

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