Helen Bach: Discovering hidden high street gems

Parking was pricey but Helen found some hidden gems
Parking was pricey but Helen found some hidden gems

Since moving further north in the county, I must admit I don’t often go into Kettering town centre any more.

So when I went there last week the parking charges in the short stay car park behind Marks & Spencer came as a bit of a shock – £3.40 for three hours.

I only wanted to park in it, not buy shares in it!

But, seriously, this isn’t going to be a monologue about the cost of parking, although perhaps the council would like to consider how expensive it is compared to the cost of parking in the out-of-town developments?

Hardly a level playing field for the retailers is it? Ahem, moving on.

This got me thinking about how Kettering town centre has changed over the years, and I’d like to take you on a trip down memory lane as I’m sure many local people reading this will remember the old shops the same as I do.

The Co-op in Montagu Street – you could just about get everything you needed in there.

Electricals, carpets, curtains, shoes, clothes – it was a proper department store.

Opposite was Burton’s Hardware – a fantastic shop, much missed I’m sure.

I remember buying a kettle in there about 10 years ago, and being given a hand-written receipt and I think my purchase was either wrapped in brown paper or put in a large paper bag, can’t remember which, but both totally recyclable.

Then in Newland Street you had the Button Boutique and Phillips – great for people who liked sewing and making their own clothes etc.

Indeed, they would have been ideal for those partaking in the Great British Sewing Bee!

In Silver Street you had Chalkleys which I remember being an official school uniform supplier, and Capps, which marketed itself as a ‘walkround store’ which used to amuse me as a child because most stores you could walk around.

I guess this harked back to a time where you stood in front of a counter and pointed at the goods you wished to purchase.

All of these stores have now gone, which seems a shame.

A little bit of retail history gone for ever, like Woolworths – which I also seem to remember had a deli counter as well as a glorious pick ‘n’ mix range of sweets.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, because on this recent visit I did discover a little gem of a shop that I didn’t previously know about.

Flashbacks in High Street is in what I think used to be Harwayes (the underwear shop which also sold ballet shoes – remember that?).

Flashbacks sells memorabilia-type products, from Star Trek lunch-tins – wouldn’t the ‘Big Bang Theory’ boys love those?! – to film products like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe merchandise, and various music-themed items (the Sex Pistols drink coasters caught my eye!) and retro band T-shirts among many others.

It really is a lovely little store, very reasonably priced, and I hope it does well.

It cheered me up to see an independent high street shop offering something different – and yes, I did buy something in there, and no, I’m not being sponsored by them before you ask!

Read more from Helen here.