Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting: Happy Feet and Magic Elves

Independent businesses offer many services you cannot find elsewhere.  Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutters on Flixton Road is a delightful little cavern offering – unsurprisingly – shoe repairs and key cutting.  My husband had his shoes resoled there this week and not only was the job completed skillfully and efficiently, it was as cheap as chips and certainly far cheaper than the big shoe repairing chains.

Friendly, professional service at Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting on Flixton Road.

Friendly, professional service at Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting on Flixton Road.

Shoe repairing is one of those quaint, almost-forgotten services our throwaway society disregards, but if you care about the environment you need to think twice before flinging away your down-at-heel stilettos. Well-informed people know that if the United Nations is to be believed – and it is – we are headed for environmental hell in a flimsily-made plastic handcart unless we begin to seriously conserve resources.  The manufacture of shoe leather is horribly polluting and it’s very hard to find ethically-made shoes (i.e. sweat-shop and/ or child-labour free).

What’s more, if you’re feeling whimsical you can imagine shoe-repairing elves springing out from under the counter and performing their magic.  If that doesn’t put a spring in your step as you skip down the road in your revamped footwear, nothing will.


Only Ghouls and Corpses at the Grill

The Grill at 27 is the venue for Affordable Fancy Dress‘s Hallowe’en party tomorrow night (Thursday, 31st October 2013).  The party is now open to children as well as adults and the adult ticket price of £10 includes free entry for one child.



Mrs M Vintage: a new-old shop on Flixton Road

Mrs M. Vintage is a new-old shop freshly opened on Flixton Rd (right by the bookshop).  Mrs M’s grand opening offered cake, fizz and the chance to prowl through Mrs M’s unique collection of pre-loved and vintage-style (i.e. new but old-fashioned looking) furniture, hand-crafted homeware and all manner of delightful thingummyjigs.

Mrs M Vintage on Flixton Rd., Urmston. Photo courtesy Mrs M Vintage.

The shop is delightfully decked out to recall a bygone time when ladies would pop on a hat and some red lippie and stroll from baker to greengrocer to ironmonger and so on.  I had a good browse through Mrs M’s vintage aprons and gorgeous, unusual toys and I was bowled over by the very fine vintage Vespa parked outside (not literally – it was stationary).

Mrs M Vintage’s beautiful shop interior. Photo courtesy of Mrs M Vintage.

I fell in love with Mrs M’s plastic flower-framed mirror and  but In the end I came away with a cute, hand-crafted felt bird and a make-it-yourself craft kit as a Christmas present.  My niece will really enjoy making and using her owl handbag (well, she is nine …) and it’s always pleasing to support a local independent business in my festive gift hunt.

Push-along vintage poodle. Photo courtesy of Mrs M Vintage.

Vintage, pre-loved and upcycled goods are enjoying huge demand at the moment, I suppose because people enjoy looking back at the past.  Old-fashioned design offers the chance to be a bit different to the norm without making a spectacle of oneself as all the designs have been tried and tested.  Recycling, reusing and upcycling are all essential if we want to preserve our environment and shops like Mrs M’s Vintage make saving the planet fun.

The 1940s and 50s vibe seems just right for now; those decades were a time of austerity but, unlike now, when our services are being slashed and people are being puppet-mastered into factions (‘benefits claimants’ versus ‘hard-working families’), the 1940s and 50s were a time of great unity.  People pulled together and did what they could to make the country a better place.  Whilst today we are losing health and education services, the 1940s saw the birth of the NHS in a country that had just fought a long, expensive war.  No wonder we look back on those decades as a golden era.  It was a time of good cheer and optimism.

Toooo much cute! Photo courtesy of Mrs M Vintage.

Mrs M’s Vintage can be found at 71 Flixton Road, M41 5AB which only strengthens my claim that Flixton Road is the centre of the universe.  Do visit: it’s very special and shops like this help differentiate Urmston from anywhere else, making it a lovely place to shop and live.

Marketing the Market in Urmston

News has reached us that Urmston Market has been sold.  Unconfirmed reports (someone told me in a shop) suggest that the market has been bought up by a company who have a track record of revitalising small markets like ours.  I hope this is true.  Our market has so much potential and it already boasts many great stalls and stallholders, some of whom have been there for decades.  Few people know that a long time ago I myself had a market stall on Urmston Market.  I sold wildly unpopular vegetarian wholefoods and was quite spectacularly unsuccessful, not to mention cold and wet.

Barnes' fruit stall has been on Urmston Market for three generations.

Barnes’ fruit stall has been on Urmston Market for three generations.

Urmston Market is an old-fashioned sort of set-up.  There’s no marketing strategy, corporate branding or much of an attempt to engage with social media.  This lack of commercial awareness is a definite part of the market’s charm, but while I cannot claim to have expertise in the field of market-marketing (see what I did there?)  I do think that Urmston Market needs to promote itself more effectively.

No logo: Urmston Market's lack of corporate branding is part of its charm.

No logo: Urmston Market’s lack of corporate branding is part of its charm.

There are a few independent businesses in our town who  have created a strong, recognisable image that doesn’t compromise their indy credentials.  Fouette, the BookshopKobella and the Glass Slipper to name only a few all make use of beautiful window displays.   Thomas Carter Opticians  run a Christmas stocking competition for local children and display the entries in their shop window.

Kobella’s window displays always attract attention.

Urmston Bookshop makes use of spectacular window displays.

Nobody could pass through Urmston town centre without noticing Home Estate Agents.   Its bold and unusual use of pink is both memorable and subtly reassuring.  Pink is a kind colour, a cosy colour, but it can also be a glamorous colour.  Forget about the negative stereotypes of ruthless, cut throat estate agents, ready to sell their own granny shortly after pushing her down the stairs for the price of a cup of tea: the lovely pinkness of Home is telling us that this is an estate agent who does things differently.  The whole team wear pink ties or cravats, which provides visual unity without the inevitable unstylishness of a ‘uniform’.

I work upstairs from Home and the whole team really do seem genuinely lovely.  I should also probably say that the Vital Space and Paul Birtles team also seem terribly nice and friendly.  I don’t know any more estate agents but I’m sure they are grand chaps and chapesses one and all.  So, to sum up, I am not in any way suggesting that estate agents are cut throat types at all, just referencing the stereotype in order to illustrate my point which is that Home Estate Agents have good branding.

Another independent Urmston business that I like to think has good branding is my own business, Better Tuition.  Our Better Tuition bird is a chubby blue creature that adorns our walls and marketing materials.  The bird is terribly popular with the children and provides a strong visual association, making our tuition centre memorable; people may see the bird a hundred times over the years, not really taking it in, but when the time comes for them to look for a tutor, they know where to come.

The Better Tuition bird – an Urmston institution.

The market’s rebirth, if and when it comes along, will need to be carefully managed, but when it does I’m sure we all hope it’s a great success.  We all like living in a town with a market; let’s show Urmston’s hardworking stallholders some support.

Flixton Road: centre of the universe

It’s all happening on Flixton Road …

A new shop has opened in Eccles Electrical’s former home; Treasured Wear is  a family run business with over 20 years experience in the printing industry (I think they were Primeprint up by Flixton Station, but not 100% sure).  They offer the ‘corporate print solutions’ (!) such as business cards, leaflets, folders & brochures as well as personalisation of hoodies, t-shirts and other garments.


A pop-up (but not in an explosive way, we hope) fireworks shop has opened on the site of the golf shop.  It’s only there until just after bonfire night, so keep your eyes peeled for more developments.

Manchester Cartridge (formerly Cartridge World) has moved to Station Road.

Urmston Carpets has opened on the site of the old United Carpets.

The tool shop has closed and in its place an exciting-sounding vintage shop is soon to open.

Meanwhile, at Urmston Bookshop, following on from their well-attended book signings with Jayne Dillon and Ann Widdecombe amongst others, Frances and Peter were recently filmed with Frank Cottrell-Boyce on Granada Reports.   Now, I am not very technically minded so having spent ten minutes trying to work out how to embed the video, I’ve given up, but I do recommend you watch Urmston Bookshop on Granada Reports here.  Frances makes the excellent point that her little bookshop employs many local people and serves as a community hub.  If you have stumbled upon this page from further afield, I would urge you to visit Urmston Bookshop; it’s a beautiful little shop that is so inspiring for readers young and old.  You can tell when you walk through the door that the people who run this shop really love books.  As the report says, 1/3 of independent bookshops have closed in recent years, so use it or lose it, people!

Beautiful books, quirky gifts and toys at Urmston Bookshop.

Beautiful books, quirky gifts and toys at Urmston Bookshop.

When I called in to buy Morrissey’s Autobiography this week, Frances told me that back in the day St Morrissey himself would spend many a dinner hour round at her house, as he was pals with her brother.  He would sit at the table and produce fabulous artwork but Frances’ mother, much to her chagrin, never kept any of his drawings.  Frances did not reveal whether the great Stretfordian ever scratched her name on his arm with a fountain pen.

There are plenty more comings-and-goings that are coming up and going down in the next few weeks, but I shall have to post on these in the future for time, as St Morrissey once said, is against me now.