Fancy a coffee with some interiors shopping — and the option of an arts event?
Then drop into The Village Hall on Cork’s St Patrick’s Quay, and meet Jackie Browne, an aficionado of vintage interiors style, home baking and a good cup of coffee,
The venture, which she runs with her partner, Ciaran Magill, is a blending of past interests for the couple, and from Jackie’s perspective, it started when she developed a love of junk shops long before vintage became fashionable, in the East End of London, where she was raised by her immigrant parents.
Meanwhile, Ciaran’s parents worked in antiques across town, in salubrious Richmond.
However, it was an opportunity to run a pop-up Christmas shop last year, in what is now The Village Hall, which got them thinking about the possibilities the building offered, to create a vintage lifestyle and an arts venue in the city centre.
Overlooking the River Lee through a charming bay window and offering a view of Cork’s main thoroughfare, the space is filled with natural light by day and can be transformed with vintage lamplight, furniture and objet d’art for various events, by night.
Downstairs, the deceptively large shop space is filled with furniture, mirrors, paintings, tablewares and even musical instruments.
Near the entrance is a café resembling the kitchen of an old house that hasn’t had the callous hand of renovation applied, so it’s cosy and inviting, with a counter trimmed with high stools upon which to sit and chat.
Behind the counter stands Jackie, like a welcoming hostess and she’s eager for me to sample what turns out to be an excellent cup of coffee made from a machine that is probably the only piece of hi-tech equipment in the place.
While she brews I amble around the shop, falling into step with the slow rhythm of a song being played on a vintage record player.
I think the chanteuse might be Doris Day, or certainly someone of that era. It’s a subtle suggestion of Jackie’s retail philosophy which aims to bring back the personal attention of 1950s shopping.
As if on cue, the door opens and a clutch of American tourists steps inside, while I perch myself on a stool at the kitchen counter, musing on whether I should have a slice of chocolate brownie, lovingly baked by Ciaran that morning.
The smell is evocative and doesn’t go unnoticed either by the Americans, who are greeted by Jackie with a warm and sincere, “Hello darlin’”.
As they sniff the chocolate-scented air, and stroll around the shop, excitedly pointing out an ancient wireless and stroking a pair of curtains with matching pelmet which are around 40 years old, my attention is drawn to the door as it opens again.
This time it’s a lady dropping off a 1960’s record player and two old leather pouffes.
She’s soon followed by a regular — Hernan Catvin— a Buenos Aires native who teaches Argentine tango in the space upstairs on Monday nights.
While he waits for his bus home to Dublin, he orders a coffee and enthusiastically throws a few shapes for us.
He’s just one of a growing number of artists using The Village Hall regularly, including teachers of zumba, céilí, swing, dance therapy, puppetry and other events include workshops on Shakespeare for actors.
A pop-up record shop selling old vinyls is also in the offing, and it’s with a certain pride Ciaran shows me some vintage gold dust — a consignment of record player needles he recently bought.
It’s just one example of a stock that is extensive and varied.
Curtains and rugs come from a recycling centre in Holland, and Jackie and Ciaran admit to being unable to resist a rummage through a skip.
House clearances are a particularly significant source of stock and something they handle with great sensitivity.
The result is a series of vignettes around the shop, and a gentle kindness in the approach and, indeed, to the room settings which are far from the sometimes impersonal touch of modern retailing.
Not completely rooted in the past, however, the couple is also thinking ahead with a dream of extending the vintage lifestyle experience to run a small hotel where everything is for sale.
I hope the breakfasts are as good as their coffee and cake.