Independent shopping in Cardiff 

We’re so lucky when it comes to shopping in Cardiff. We have an amazing city centre with a mix of almost all the best-loved high street brands (I still get a bit of a thrill when I walk into John Lewis. Seriously) but if you know where to look, you can find some wonderful independent shops too, which set us aside from every other city centre in the UK. 

Most of these independents can be found in Cardiff’s beautiful Arcades or tucked away in places like Cardiff Market. Although it’s great to wander around Cardiff’s nooks and crannies, sometimes I am a lazy shopper. I need to get in, grab what I need and get out!  Actually that’s being an effective shopper rather than lazy, isn’t it? So that’s why it’s great to see more independent shops popping up in St Davids Arcade, alongside the bigger chains.

J admiring the Lego art at Bricks at Home, Cardiff

I was invited by St David’s to visit two of their independent pop-ups, Bricks at Home and Ushi’s.

Andy Warhol-inspired artwork at Bricks at Home, Cardiff

I first visited Bricks at Home last Christmas, when they were holding a pop-up at a different location in Cardiff. I loved their mix of Lego-inspired artworks and homewares. 

Bricks at Home is the brain child of Andy Morris, a financier-turned-artist. He creates quirky Lego-themed artworks, inspired by artists like Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol. Perfect for the kids and big kids in your life. 

Travels with Roo postcard available from Bricks at Home, Cardiff

Bricks at Home also sell smaller, more affordable home wares such as prints, cushions and knick-knacks like Lego-shaped jewellery boxes, key rings and pencils. Much of it sourced from independent Cardiff-based designers. 

The Bricks at home shop will shortly be moving from its current location in St Davids but is planning more pop ups in the future. And in the meantime you can buy on their website www.bricksathome.com

Ushi’s pop-up, St David’s, Cardiff

Next up was a visit to Ushi’s. I was already familiar with Ushi’s in Cowbridge and Wellfield Road and love their quirky gifts and homewares. I especially enjoy visiting at Christmas time to stock up on some unique festive decorations.

Ushi’s in St Davids is stocking slightly different products, mainly clothes and accessories, alongside a small home decor offering. 

The clothes are mostly independent designers you can’t get on the high street and they’re definitely capitalising on their spot opposite The White Company and Coast. 

I’ll be honest that the clothes aren’t exactly my style but I spotted a few summer pieces that my Mum and Auntie would love and a gorgeous summer hat that I’m going to go back and have another look at. 

Perfect summer hat at Ushi’s, St David’s, Cardiff

Ushi’s pop up in St Davids will stay open until at least the summer. 

If you love independent shops here are some of my other favourites around Cardiff

  • Wally’s Deli, Royal Arcade (A Cardiff Institution; stocking food from Europe and America and a deli counter featuring the best olives ever)
  • Milgi Market, Cardiff Indoor Market (Veggie salad bowls and treats)
  • Wellfield Books, Wellfield Road (A lovely little book emporium to get lost in)
  • Nest Vintage Living, Rhiwbina (Homewares and toys)
  • Bant a la Cart, Pontcanna (Amazing Welsh food. Try their ready-made pies and quiches)
  • Enerchi, Radyr (Beauty salon; stocking L’Occitane, Caudalie, Pukka teas and boutique beauty products)

Which is your favourite independent Cardiff shop? Leave your comments below! 

This post was written in collaboration with St Davids Arcade, who gifted me a voucher in return. This is an honest review, featuring my own opinions. 

Funky Little Chickens, children’s hairdressers

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My two-year old son hates having his hair cut. Really detests it. At times we’ve managed to bribe him with sweets, his dummy or even watching films on an iPad. But it’s never been a pleasant experience.

The last time he visited the barbers he wouldn’t even sit in the chair and had an almighty tantrum.

We needed help!

My husband and I were discussing how to get around the problem when I happened to see Funky Little Chickens on Twitter.

A children’s hairdresser, clothes shop and play area, it’s located in a business park on Lamby Way in Rumney.

They use plenty of distractions to ensure children enjoy having their haircut, from car-shaped hairdresser chairs, DVDs and lots of treats. It looked like it would be a good option for our cars-mad toddler.

After a brief Twitter conversation, where they assured me it’s common for toddlers to hate having their haircut and they were sure they could help – we were booked in for the next Saturday.

It was a fantastic experience. The girl cutting J’s hair was patient and understanding and he barely noticed he was having a haircut while he played in the car and watched Peppa Pig. When she started to cut around the back of his neck and he began to get a bit fractious, she was really reassuring and managed to distract him with stickers and toys so she could trim his hair safely.

And the haircut was a really good one, they did a fab job. We’ll definitely be back.

Haircut Cost £8

www.funkylittlechickens.co.uk

As usual, we paid in full for the haircut and Funky Little Chickens did not know I’d be writing a review.

I’m taking on the #ShopCardiff challenge

I’m planning to take on the #ShopCardiff challenge next week. The challenge is to support the city’s independent retailers for a week, avoiding all chains, starting this Monday, March 25th.

You can read more about the challenge here and here.

What’s already struck me about the challenge is that it will involve some forward planning. For example I can’t think of any independent food retailers near where I work on Ocean Way in Cardiff. So I’ll have to remember to take my own lunch every day, or try and stop at an independent before work. But equally I’m looking forward to trying some new independent restaurants that I haven’t tried before.

I’ll be blogging and tweeting about the challenge throughout the week.

Cardiff’s hidden gems

With the news that one of the shops in Cardiff’s High Street Arcade is to close, blaming the St David’s shopping centre expansion, I’ve felt compelled to write about the arcades, which are in my opinion Cardiff’s hidden gems.

Cardiff’s shopping arcades date back to Victorian times. Royal Arcade was the first to open in 1858, shortly followed by High Street Arcade, Castle Arcade, Wyndham Arcade, Duke Street and Dominions Arcade. The arcades link the Hayes (now known as the cafe quarter) with St Mary’s Street, along to Castle Street and most are listed buildings. During a recent gig in Cardiff, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine said she’d been shopping in Cardiff’s arcades and loved the vintage shops. It’s not all bad news for the arcade traders either, WalesOnline is reporting that Castle Arcade is now fully occupied, for the first time in two years.

I love the new St Davids development. Bringing much longed-for stores such as John Lewis, LK Bennett, Reiss and soon Urban Outfitters is a real plus for Cardiff’s shoppers and the regeneration of The Hayes can only be good for the city.

My concern is that too many people are visiting these new developments alone and not seeing what Cardiff can offer, to set it aside from every other capital city in the UK. I am often guilty of this myself. A few years ago a family friend was staying from England and wanted to see Cardiff’s shops. I took her along Queen Street and remember stopping at the Castle and saying – “Well, that’s it”. “But, what about the arcades?” She asked. I had completely overlooked the arcades until she mentioned them and we spent a lovely few hours rediscovering the boutique shops and cafes on offer.

The fact that there are minimal chain stores in the Arcades is another plus.  Most of them are independent and have been there for some time. Claire Grove Buttons in Castle Arcade was a favourite haunt of mine as a teenager, where I used to hunt out unusual beads to make my own earrings. I can’t think of another shop that has lasted so long, while specialising simply in buttons and beads. I was also a fan of City Surf during my teenage years (mainly due to the surfer boys hanging out there!) and City Surf is another Castle Arcade shop still going strong. Head further into the arcade and you’ll now find Madame Fromage Deli and Cafe, a bridal shop and fancy dress shop and on the corner of High Street there’s Barker – a boutique that has always been popular with Cardiff’s fashion-forward, currently stocking brands such as G Star and Two Stoned.

There’s really something happening with fashion in the Arcades. Head across the newly pedestrianised St Mary’s Street and into High Street Arcade, where you’ll find unique fashion boutiques including Buzz shoes, the lovely Lunacy Boutique, Looby Loos (perfect for a vintage style tea dress or two) and 70s Emporium Hobos.

High Street Arcade also houses my personal favourite for lunch – the New York Deli. The NY Deli opened in 1990 and moved from its previous premises across the arcade, to its current location. It’s a mish-mash of styles inside, ranging from graffiti art to Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey memorabilia, but the bagels and hoagies (crammed full of your choice of American-style filling) are to die for. I’d also recommend a coffee and a chocolate brownie, if you have the room.

If you like your tea and cake a little more traditional, try Garlands coffee shop in the adjoining Duke Street Arcade.

Morgans’ Arcade, running alongside the old David Morgan building, houses another independent cafe – The Plan – a light and airy two-floor cafe – named by the Independent as one of the UK’s 50 best coffee shops.  Morgan Arcade also houses Neal’s Yard and childrenswear boutique Fred and Grace’s.

Nearby Royal Arcade contains Wally’s delicatessen – a must visit if you’ve never been. Open in its current location since the 1980s, Wally’s is a real ‘Cardiff Institution’ – with a temporary pop-up shop in St Davids, which is aiming to direct more traffic to their Royal Arcade base. No need to look for it, the smell will entice you in and a tub of olives or wasabi peas are a must-buy.

Rossiters of Bath, a few yards along, is a lovely place to shop for gifts or bespoke furniture while the Shared Earth Fair Trade shop is doing business along the way.

If you prefer something a little more edgy from your shop, try Wyndham Arcade where the Comic Book Guru, stocking comics (of course) and Dr Who memorabilia may suit your appetite, or perhaps Rebel Rebel if you fancy a piercing or tattoo to mark your day in the capital city.

I’d really encourage anyone to visit the arcades next time you’re in Cardiff. I hope you find a hidden gem of your own.