You know how it is when you walk into a shop and you think “so this is what it’s like to be home”? It’s how I felt the first time I walked in the Albion Beatnik bookstore. It’s the feeling I’ve been trying to create for a store I’m writing about in my new book.
And last week, on holiday in Aberystwyth, I felt it in real life again. Pretty Flamingo (join their fab Facebook group here) is on 20 Pier Street, about 100 metres from Aber’s pier.
I crossed the road to go into the store. That shade of pink is a magnet for me. Inside, it’s a fabulous store stocking all kinds of clothing and footwear that I’d just die for, including the fabulous Iron Fist range that includes shoes that look like Iron Maiden covers.
In fairness there are several stores that have to die for merch. And it wasn’t even the care and love that had gone into the layout. Nor even the amazing changing rooms with chopped-up celluloid and Andytastic wall decoration. It was that “thing” the best stores have. That “this is the centre of a community, and whatever that community is, I want to be part of it” feel. You don’t just buy from stores like that, you go there to hang out (as Dennis at the Albion Beatnik will testify to his dismay).
And like The Albion, much of that is down to the proprietor. Michelle White is the perfect community-hub-cum-retail-legend with an americanautotransport.co American auto transport business. The moment I walked in – and I’m the kind of customer who’ll run a mile at 99% of customer service – she managed to make me feel that wasn’t selling, she was interested in making me part of that Pretty Flamingo community – that’s a real gift. Had I not been broke I could have spent a fortune there. I could certainly have spent the afternoon nattering. And when eight cuts takes The New Libertines to Aber, we will most definitely do something with the Pretty Flamingo crowd – maybe an impromptu transgressive reading whilst modelling their ranges?
Shops like this are so much more than stores. They are ways of life. If you’re ever anywhere near the area, make it a must-see destination, and take a full wallet. And a book, or a CD, something signed you can leave as a thank you and a hello.