Hayley Blake – Emporium

Emporium owner Hayley Black with a Jack Russell called Leonard

When Hayley started work as a shop assistant in what was Pets Palace over 20 years ago I doubt that she could have foreseen that one day she would be the owner of the shop and that it would be a vital community hub.

Over the past few years the shop has grown from one that sold exclusively pet food and accessories to one that has diversified and now sells a wide range of goods.

On the pet food side of the shop she stocks mainly domestic and wild bird products, frozen food for reptiles, fish food for aquariums and a range of dog treats and accessories. She also sells a range of non-prescription medical products for small animals.

A selection of pet medicines

I asked Hayley when she’d started selling other goods and she told me, “I started making bobble hats three years ago and I buy the wool locally, usually in charity shops. Some local women came in after they saw them and asked if I could sell the blankets and baby clothes they make on their behalf then the following summer I began to sell plants.” She also sells bric-a-brac and books and the stock is rotated on a regular basis. Her aim was to bring extra trade into the shop and it has worked.

Knitted hats

A recent addition to the shop is a vintage goods corner which belongs to Nelbo. He told me that popping in to buy spider plants from Hayley transformed into  a friendship over about a year or so. He was looking to expand his online business into a the ‘real world”, Hayley offered him a corner of the shop and he was more than happy to say yes.

Inserts for keeping shoes in peak condition

Another small part of the shop is given over to a local woman who sells handmade soaps which are vegetarian and cruelty free. There is also a wide range of trainers and other boots and shoes at great prices. Want a pair of refurbished Converse or Adidas? This is your place to go.

East Street has recently been described as too ‘down to earth’ but it’s those down to earth businesses like Pets Palace that keep the street alive and kicking.

What was the Pets Palace 20 years ago has evolved over the years into a wonderful ‘emporium’ of kinds and there isn’t another shop like it in the whole of the city.

Hayley is a straight talking woman who plays an active part in the local traders association. She is quite rightly proud of creating a micro community within a wider community and it is people like her who are the true heroes of our high streets and communities.