A truly fascinating shop opened in York about a month ago.
I’d seen snippets and odd snaps on social media, and it was my other reason (as well as the new Hobbs opening) for making a trip to Yorkshire’s ancient walled city recently.
Nothing can really prepare you for entering The Imaginarium. Incongruously placed just a couple of doors up from McDonald’s (@ 6 Blake Street, YO1 8QG) I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and I’m not sure anywhere else like it exists.
You may look at these pictures but I guarantee if you go you will see something else, something more. Every nook and cranny of this shop has a thing to surprise and delight. It’s like a wonderland, where imagination has been let run wild, a place to escape to. It feels like something Roald Dahl might have cooked up. With magical music, candlelight, scented diffusers, chandeliers, fairground horses and sculptures climbing the walls, it’s an overload of the senses and the mood changes with each metre you browse.
And it’s very clever. Because ultimately, it’s still a shop: it wants to sell things. But its wares are displayed in such an exciting and engrossing way. Scarves draped on hands poking out of the wall, necklaces hanging from books, potions sitting atop a glass cabinet in which lies a skeletal mermaid. Its items for sale juxtapose and interact.
You’re an adult, you’ve been into thousands of shops, but this is so different that you feel like a child walking into Willy Wonka’s factory, eyes wide with wonder.
Come on in.
There’s more to The Imaginarium than just fantasy and frivolity, though. The shop has a strong ethos to support British and Yorkshire creatives, with the worthy exception of ibride‘s pretty trays (from Paris).
It stocks sought-after textile art by Mister Finch, distinctive printed fabrics and ceramics by House of Hackney, Bronte throws, stamped vintage cutlery by The Cutlery Commission, ceramics by Ali Miller, True Grace candles and diffusers and jewellery by And Mary. I spotted a couple of familiar local names, including Sam Bryan‘s fairies and etchings by [vinegar & brown paper], who I’ve written about before.
There’s much more I could say, but the best thing to do is just go and explore and discover it for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And when you do go, make sure you press the button beneath this guy, who was a special commission by world-leading animatronics experts.
If all shops adopted The Imaginarium’s ethos, you can’t imagine people talking about the high street being in crisis. It’s certainly an approach that gives you an experience to counter the convenience of shopping online.
What do you think?
PS Come back in a couple of days when I’ll be talking about The Imaginarium’s equally charming sister shop The Yorkshire Soap Company.