There’s a new one-stop shop for across-the-board loveliness in Newcastle. SAM WONFOR took some time out to roll up to the Flea Circus, and strongly suggests you do the same.
A new independent shopping experience is offering customers a melting pot of delights under one big Newcastle roof.
Flea Circus opened its doors just as we were all about to start opening the ones on our advent calendars (seems yonks ago now, doesn’t it, although I do have what I’m calling my jolly Christmas chocolate belt to keep it fresh in my mind) and has already made quite the impression.
With almost 20 individual sellers – and more than a few about to be added to its roster – co-habiting in harmony in a spacious unit, Flea Circus promises an absolute doozie of an opportunity to browse, browse and browse again safe in the knowledge that there will always be something new to catch your eye and interest… and more often than not, your heart too.
So whether you’re in the market for vintage furniture or fashion, contemporary jewellery, comics, collectibles, distinctive ceramics, a curated selection of second hand books, eye-catching prints, salvaged wood creations, hand printed cards and/or retro toys, you’re going to want to put this place on your ‘to-visit’ list.
The ringmasters of this addition to Newcastle’s independent shopping offer are Jessica Penrose and Jim Gregory, who both found themselves looking for somewhere from which to sell their respective stuffs.
Having both made it their business to serve up a steady stream of vintage, upcycled and refurbished furniture and homeware treats, they had bumped into each other at various markets around the North East.
Jim, a joiner by trade had started Etch Interiors four or five years ago as a bit of a hobby, but in recent years, his hobby had overtaken his day job. He says: “Jess and I got to know each other a bit and then I approached her to see whether she wanted to share a pitch at a fair which was coming up.
“As it turned out, my wife Hannah already knew Jess – they’d done an upholstery course together four years ago!”
Jessica, 39, a former journalist and NHS healthcare assistant, takes on the story.
“I’d always had an interest, ever since I was a kid, I used to love going around antique and vintage shops, looking for lovely things. When I had my first child in 2011, I started doing a bit of upholstery and selling to make some money.
“Then when my youngest started school, I rented a space on Fern Avenue in Jesmond for a while and things really went well.”
Last summer Jim and Jess came together in joint frustration at not having a permanent place to sell from.
“We were doing lots of fairs and markets,” says Jessica, “but they can be really time consuming. We had the idea to find a space which could also offer a platform to other sellers and decided that for a shop to really work, it would have to be a collective.”
Jim, 40, adds: “Both from a cost and time point of view, it made sense – and also of course in terms of the shop having a wide appeal. We thought it would be great to get a real mix of stuff in there.”
After getting in touch with North East sellers and makers they knew and loved, as well as those they found at local events and online independent shop melting pot, Etsy… all Jessica and Jim had to do was find the perfect shop.
And they found it right next door to the wondrous Star and Shadow Cinema on Warwick Street – not much more than a stone’s throw from Jessica’s Heaton home.
“It’s a perfect spot,” says Jessica. “Next door to the Star and Shadow – who are our landlords as well as neighbours. It’s so close to the Ouseburn too, which is obviously a brilliant place to be, but it’s also right on a main bus route and commuter belt into Newcastle – we’re right in the path of so many people.”
“And the free parking outside is pretty great too,” adds Jim, who lives in Gosforth with Hannah and their two young children.
Following an intensive couple of months of getting the space ready, Flea Circus opened proper on November 29.
And it’s fair to say its collective of staff and sellers hit the ground running as a steady stream of Christmas shoppers, keen to swerve the high street staples and forage for unique treasures for their nearest and dearest, descended throughout December.
“We’ve all learned a lot,” laughs Jim. “We’re doing something completely new for us and there are new discoveries all the time, but we’re all finding our way of working well together and it has been really really amazing so far.”
Jessica adds: “We have been overwhelmed with how warmly and positively people have responded to us being here – and there’s such a supportive business community too – everyone is really pulling for each other to do well.
“It’s great to be part of that and we’re looking forward to welcoming lots more new customers through the doors this year.
“We’re already adding more sellers to the mix (see side panel for a full list of the Flea Circus bill) and there’s such a quick turnover of stock, it’s always going to be worth popping in to see what’s new.”
Elbows at the ready…
Flea Circus can be found next door to the Star and Shadow Cinema on Warwick Street in Newcastle. Visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wearefleacircus/ for more details, and to hear first about new arrivals.
But in the meantime, here’s a rundown of who’s on the bill…
Just Ginger Interiors – French chic furniture and accessories.
Hap – lucky furniture and more finds from the junk shops, charity shops and auction rooms of the North East.
Etch Interiors – High End Mid-century furniture, rugs, art, glass and ceramics.
Nothing New Interiors – Upcycled, restored and salvaged furniture and household goods.
Lolly Lola and Me – 1950s bric-à-brac and collectibles.
Lazy One – Curated fashion, accessories and household goods.
Lady T Comics – Vintage comics with a huge range of totals including Beano, Dr Strange, Marvel, Warlock, And Swamp Thing.
Penny Pearce Books – A curated selection of vintage and modern titles for all interests and ages.
Seraphim’s Lair – A collection of collectible glass from all countries and eras.
Raw Pots – Thrown across the park at Brickworks Studios, a vivid selection of handmade plates and cups from a local duo.
Giggling Goose Gallery – Expertly made cupboards, bird houses, letters and accessories crafted from salvaged wood.
Purl’s Bizarre – Enamel, metal work glass and silver smithed jewellery.
Nora Cool – Laser cut plastic earrings, broaches and necklaces with a retro feel.
Vintage Revival – Affordable fashion and bric-à-brac
It’s Vintage Material – 1980’s-1990’s fashion, including Kappa tracksuits and shellsuits.
Solid State Vintage – Geek chic including 80’s toys and mobile phones, games, lighting and technology.
Nostalgia Supreme – Vintage collectibles including Pokemon, old and new, for big and little kids.
Left Hand Gang – Colourful prints of musical legends including Fella Kuti, Public Enemy and Erika Badu.
Light up North – Stunning neon creations all the way from Saltburn.
RetroCity Arcades – All your favourite computer games from over the decades in cool and retro arcades and carriers.
You Got Burned – Amazing smelling candles with cheeky and sometimes outright rude messages. Stocked in Italy and the USA, but a UK exclusive at Flea Circus.
A version of this article was supplied to The Journal, NewcastleBack to articles