Newest member to tight-knit Albert Road traders 'privileged' to join forces on trendy Southsea street amid bustling Bank Holiday trading
IT WAS a bustling Bank Holiday Saturday morning in the cosmopolitan Albert Road, Southsea, as shoppers flocked to their favourite shops to continue revelling in their resurrected freedoms after lockdown restrictions were eased last month.
The vibrancy of the street with its array of unique independents and trendy culture has long been a pull factor to the area.
It was also why one of its newest traders was so proud to join forces with the tight community of locals.
‘It is such a privilege to be part of the road,’ Cacey Barks, who owns Tweedy Clothing Shop with her partner Josh Bland, said.
‘Everyone really supports each other and tries to help each other. We all offer different stuff which you can’t always find elsewhere.
‘Everyone is very friendly and there are good friendships here. We feel lucky to be part of it.’
Becoming the newest member of the prestigious Albert Road traders fraternity was a no-brainer for the sustainable fair trade clothing firm that offers natural and recycled products that are 95 per cent vegan.
But it was borne out of circumstances and opportunity after Cacey and Josh decided to expand their mobile clothing business of selling items at festivals and markets across the country after last year’s lockdown slammed the door shut on that line of business.
‘We would normally have been on the road selling at events and would not have had a lot of time to do much else. But with no events we thought it was the right time to open a shop and when the opportunity came up in Albert Road last September we jumped at the chance,’ Cacey said.
‘It was a leap of faith but we wanted to expand the business. Of course there was lockdown soon after opening but that gave us time to get fully prepared.
‘It hasn’t been easy opening and closing but since reopening again in April things have been good.
‘It has been busy so far this Bank Holiday and we’re definitely starting to see more and more people come out. We’re open on Monday 12pm - 4pm too so hopefully that will be another good day.
‘We hope more people can now get to know us and hopefully we’ll not have to lockdown again. We’re excited for the upcoming months.’
The company ‘does its bit’ for nature and seeks to help workers in India where items are made after receiving designs from Cacey. Workers there are paid three times more than what they would normally receive and Tweedy Clothing is also donating 20 per cent of all online sales to help provide oxygen as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Another new kid on the block down Albert Road is Pigeon Books, which has now been at the top of the road, close to Tweedy Clothing, for a year. ‘It’s been a tricky year,’ owner Phil Davies said.
‘But we’ve got through it and if we can get this far then hopefully things will get better. It’s been nice to have the door open again and people back in the shop.
‘That’s important to us and is our unique selling point over the likes of online companies such as Amazon because people come here to look at books and pick them up. That is the beauty of browsing.
‘If it’s all online then we are just competing with the likes of Amazon.’
The Bank Holiday weekend had a ‘nice and steady’ flow of customers, who were pleased to be back in the shop again. ‘The customers were very happy just to be in the shop once more,’ Phil said.
The shop owner was pleased to make the move to Albert Road. He added: ‘It’s a very nice community with 95 per cent of the shops independents. Everyone wants to help each other and wants each other to do well.’
At the other end of the spectrum along Albert Road is Jenni Catlow, owner of Tango Tea Collectibles and chairwoman of Albert Road Traders Association, who has one of the longest running shops in the road having been there for 46 years.
‘It’s very cosmopolitan here and you get people coming from all over the world. I get people who come back to see me from places like America and Sweden,’ she said. ‘There is a nice mixture of young and old traders. It is diverse and we all inspire and learn from each other.
‘It’s nice being in the buzz of things in Albert Road. Since reopening we have been busier than I expected. A lot of trade has been going on.
‘We still have Victorious to look forward to which brings a lot of people to the area and we get a lot of footfall from the Kings Theatre.’
She added: ‘It has been the strangest year but it would have been more stressful without the support of the grants from the government and Portsmouth City Council.’
Meanwhile Alexis Seed, who owns wool shop Seeded, is moving to Palmerston Road - but only so she can have a larger space for her business. ‘I’ve been here two years but just need more room,’ she said.
‘I will miss the vibrancy of the place and the support you have from other traders.’
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Born and bred close to Albert Road, Tony Duke, owner of Head Case, has no plans to go anywhere after opening his shop three years ago after working in mental health for 20 years.
The curiosity shop, which offers an assortment of bizarre and unique items from animal skulls to stuffed mice and coffins turned into seats, is also the only cigar stockist in Portsmouth - with him delivering a thriving business. ‘If you want a hand rolled tradition cigar then I’m it,’ he said.
‘We have cigars imported from around the world of the very highest standard. Lots of people buy here because we have the highest standards in the world with cigars in the UK.’
Cigar brands include sought after Cubans and Trinidad. ‘Often people come here after the theatre and want one,’ Tony said. ‘Often they might want one of the biggest ones but I guide them through what’s best for them.’
Tony said the pandemic had taken its toll. ‘We’ve had problems getting cigars because there’s been no flights from Cuba or the Carribean so all the cigars are now coming via ships so it is taking longer to get them.
‘The customers have been brilliant since we’ve reopened and say they would rather buy with us than over the internet.
‘It has been a tough time and without Boris Johnson and the financial support we would not have survived.
‘We need more shops down here to get more people to come here but it’s great to be back down Albert Road where everyone really supports each other.’