We visit the tiny retro shop in Bristol where hundreds joined a huge queue outside
The shop in Brislington specialises in 1980s and 1990s toys, games and collectables
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The Garfield rollerskates on the counter of Retro Bristol were getting plenty of attention. As was the He-Man face mask in its original box. The shop on Brislington Hill had only just opened for the day and there were already a surprising number of customers browsing and buying.
A woman looking at the cabinets of 1980s and 1990s toys and games in the back room whispered to me how she still had most of this stuff in her attic and was thinking of bringing it in to sell to shop owner Richard Barrett.
Richard, meanwhile, was talking to an elderly man who was asking whether he had any Star Trek: Deep Space Nine items from the early 1990s.
His eyes lit up when he was told there was a collection due to arrive later in the week with a load of VHS and DVD films from that period. ‘I’m a bit of a completist, you see,’ smiled the man, who said he would be back later in the week.
Retro Bristol has only been open three months but owner Richard says business is picking up every day. Much of this success is down to the events he runs. Last week, Home and Away stars Sophie Dillman and Patrick O’Connor attracted a crowd of around 200 fans to the tiny shop.
Forthcoming events include meet and greet appearances from legendary puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew, who made his name with the Zippy puppet from the 1980s children’s show Rainbow, and also Sooty and Sweep. Also heading to Bristol Retro is Scorpion from Gladiators and R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars.
Born in 1979, Richard says the 1980s and 1990s was his era and his shop of vintage toys, comics and collectables is pretty much an extension of his own collection.
Prior to opening Bristol Retro, Richard ran an aquatics shop on the same site but when his energy bills went from £750 to £2500 overnight, he decided to cut his losses and swap selling fish in expensive tanks for retro collectables.
As he was tied into a two-year lease, he had no option but to move his retro business from online to a physical shop and it has started to pay off.
“I had 200 people for the Home and Away stars last week and we only expected about 80. They were here twice as long as they planned because they were having photos, videos, had a chat with everyone, it was a great evening.
“Business has picked up in recent weeks because of these events, which have brought a lot more people to the shop who didn’t know I was here.”
A small two-room shop, Retro Bristol is crammed with collectables, from Dr Who and The Smurfs to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Thunderbirds. What is most striking is how affordable a lot of the stock is, and it’s something Richard wants to stick to.
“If I get it in cheap, I sell it off cheap,” he says. “I’d rather it sold in a couple of days than sit on a shelf for a couple of months.”
Although the shop attracts customers of all ages, Richard has noticed how many older people leave in a different mood than when they arrived.
“The younger generation bring in their parents, who I see arriving looking miserable, probably thinking ‘not another toy shop’ … but then I hear them saying ‘I had that as a kid’ and walking out smiling!”
He has also offered the shop to a local suicide prevention group so they can pop in, have a coffee and take their mind off things.
“It’s amazing how many people see one small toy or old Nintendo game that transports them back to happy memories of their childhood. If that helps somebody who’s struggling, then great.”
The shop even has chunky old grey Ferguson TVs so people can play the old PlayStation games with original light guns, which won’t work on new Smart TVs.
“Everyone wants to get their old PlayStation 2, Nintendo or Mega Drives back but the guns only work with light, not pixels. A lot of people are trying to get these old TVs back but most people threw them away years ago!”
Richard buys good quality retro toys and says it’s amazing what people still have in their attic or garage. Only recently, an elderly woman came in with boxes of old toys, which turned out to be more than either she or Richard bargained for.
“This little old lady came in with a tub of toys and I think she was struggling to pay her electric and gas and she only wanted £20.
“I gave her £60 straightaway because she had some nice He-Man and Thundercats toys, which was more than she expected.
“Then she came back a few days later with another box of stuff and I gave her £30 for that but I gave her an extra £20 because one of the toys had sold for a lot more than I expected.”
Retro Bristol is at 11 Brislington Hill, Bristol, BS4 5BE. retrobristol.biz