Known for their eclectic collections of wares, the group of stores along James Street gives a shopper with some time to spare a treasure trove of choice. Collectibles, furniture, vintage curiosities and unique finds abound.
Working your way from west to east, Georges Furniture Restoration is on the corner of Ethel Street and holds much more than furniture. Antique Singer sewing machines and retro typewriters sit in groups, along side cabinets full of collectible crockery and one offs - original 1950s Mickey Mouse lunch box anyone? The shop is tightly packed and deserves careful attention so you don't miss anything. One thing you can't miss is the vintage dentist chair leaning among the restored wardrobes.
The Curio Warehouse is next along the path and stands out with its carefully curated showroom. Here you will find a less cluttered space featuring many original pieces from the 50s, from furniture to tableware. Leather trunks still showing the old fashioned travel stickers on the sides are piled up and the towering pigeon-hole shelves hold a trove of small objects, right down to colour- categories buttons.
Next on the agenda is Basic Element. It has a different feel, combining modern Asian decorative pieces with antique curios such as original wooden shoe maker templates and wooden hat- maker moulds. The blend of old and new works, many of the antiques are Asian in origin too. Look out for the delicate tiny silk hats and coats on display.
Jones of Guildford is perhaps the largest of the stores, taking up the warehouse interiors of two shop fronts. A certain kitsch-ness is on display with many souvenir plates from international destinations and coloured glass treats. It somehow blends in nicely with the extensive Royal Albert pieces for sale and particular pieces such as old Swiss Army knives and miniature toy Miele kitchen appliances. In the second showroom, furniture and wooden antique shipping crates abound, alongside tables of toys and vinyl records.
The heritage listed Vaudeville Theatre now homes the next antique stop, Trading Treasures. While the rear of the building undergoes restoration, the front area houses a small collection which includes some individual fashion pieces, handbags & brooches. The most novel thing in this array has to the the group of pink fluffy Duracell Bunnies- all about a foot tall, each movable in their own way and battery charged of course!
The last shop on my tour was Effie's Emporium of Guildford. Another large store, popular home decorators such as wooden bird cages can be found here, among the furniture and toys.
I think I was most surprised by the amount of vintage kitchen wares I saw in more than one shop. If you've ever thought of decorating with wooden rolling pins, hand-held mixers and spoons, you will be well looked after.
Any kind of shopping is made all the more enjoyable if you can stop for a coffee. All the shops outlined above are interspersed with cafés full of treats and outdoor tables to enjoy some people watching. People such as the other antique hunters like you of course!