Christmas shopping: Take a look inside this thriving Northampton store which is defying the High Street's decline
"You're supporting all of these people instead of the really big companies, and you will find all sorts of weird and wonderful surprises"
A vintage clothing shop and tea room in Northampton is defying the High Street's steady decline by bringing life into the town.
In the run up to Christmas, the Chronicle and Echo is celebrating and promoting the best of local businesses in a bid to get more people out shopping locally.
The first shop in our coverage is Vintage Retreat at Northampton Business Centre, Lower Harding Street, which is owned by Brian Murray and managed by his 24-year-old son Brandon.
The shop opened in 2013 and currently has a 4.5 out of five star rating from 594 Google reviews, making it one of Northampton top 10 rated shops.
"You can come here and buy clothes, both vintage and pre-loved. We have Freddies of Pinewood here, which is high-end vintage with quite a large following. All sorts of collectables, statues, plant pots, war memorabilia, handmade clothing, kitchen wear, furniture, literally anything," Brandon said.
"My dad has always been a big fan of Art Deco, used vintage stuff and watching things like Antiques Roadshow - he's always a had a thing for antique stuff.
"I've taken over as manager since lockdown lifted. It's been quite good, I'm enjoying it here. It's such a varied shop there's always interesting things to see, and all the traders and customers are really friendly.
"The most common question we get is either, 'where's the tea room?', and we also get a lot of, 'I can't believe I've never been here before', we used to hear it maybe 10 times a day - it was driving us a bit crazy.
"We try to push our online presence on social media but a lot of our business comes from word of mouth."
The inspiration behind the shop came from the iconic Most Marvellous Emporium, which used to be in Abington Square before it closed down in 2017.
Vintage Retreat has a slightly different business model to most, the shop provides a large space over two floors for traders to come in and rent a space and sell from their stools, like an indoor market.
Brandon said: "It's a good business model because it means we get a wide variety of things.
"Most of our traders are from Northampton but we do get a few from London - at the moment we have 120 traders here.
"It's a massive shop, spread out over two floors. It was originally one floor but we are constantly evolving and expanding.
"We've also got our own tea room, which is moving more upmarket towards being a restaurant, and we have started doing roast dinners on Sunday.
"With 120 traders, it's sort of never enough. As soon as one decides to leave, we will have someone waiting to move in - we literally have a list of people waiting to trade here.
"I think coming here it's just a lot warmer than the Market Square, you've not got to deal with the wind and the rain, and we've got a nice atmosphere here, especially at the moment with Christmas coming up."
On the secrets of the shop's success, Brandon revealed what he thinks the magic ingredients have been over the last eight years.
The business management graduate said: "I would say good customer service and, to be honest, it comes down to the quality of our traders. Our traders bring such good quality items at really well priced, it makes people want to come back.
"People often say, 'we could literally spend hours here' - you really can."
And in a final push to get some extra Christmas trade, the former Quinton House pupil explained why shopping at Vintage Retreat is your best bet.
He said: "We have local traders, it's coming up to Christmas, especially in these hard times, it's so important.
"You're supporting all of these people instead of the really big companies, and you will find all sorts of weird and wonderful surprises.
"Coming here will give you inspiration, when you don't know what to buy someone you can come here and find the perfect gift that you won't find online or anywhere else.
"Bring your friends and make sure you have got a lot of time to spend here. A lot of people come and have to shoot off without seeing everything!"
Visit the shop's Facebook page here for more information.Read more: Small Business Saturday: What is happening across Northamptonshire to support the campaign?