6th October 2009
"You could forgive the antique dealers of Grays for being more than mildly peeved to have lost half of their weekend. Art Deco rings to be fired across the glass cabinets, the odd pewter teapot launched over the banister; all acts of understandable revenge now that this tranquil shopping quarter will be full of shoppers every Saturday, as well as during the week.
So, imagine my surprise when instead of being met with tired frowns and the smell of double strength espresso, I was welcomed to the red brick edifice with iced tea, Patisserie Valerie cakes, live music and a £10 gift voucher. That’s some kind of vigilante justice.
To launch the new Saturday opening of Grays, the two-storey antiques arcade decided to throw a party to which The London Word was kindly invited. Grays, for the uninitiated, is a very genteel shopping arcade full of independent antiques dealers selling everything from Tiffany jewellery to Louis Vuitton trunks and 1930s Bakelite hair clips in the shape of locusts. It would be all too easy to describe it as a treasure trove. So we won’t.
Situated as it is, among the elegant hotels of west London (it is mere moments from Claridges and Berkeley Square), Grays caters for a rather wealthier clientèle than many of London’s arcades (meaning that my £10 gift voucher didn’t stretch all that far), although many of the dealers do also trade at Portabello and other specialist markets.
From diamond engagement rings and silver pill boxes to lithographs and even an entire suit of armour, walking around Grays can feel more like visiting a particularly brilliant museum than a shopping centre five minutes from Oxford Street. But, unlike a museum, you can take the stuff home (purse strings allowing.)
As Elliot Lee, one of the dealers in Grays says, opening on Saturdays is a ‘no brainer’, especially as the recession seems to have made about as much of dent on their trade as a marshmallow. The arcade traditionally opened on Saturdays during the run up to Christmas, but after 31 years in the business it seems that Grays is ready to take on a weekend shift.
So, if crowd surfing across the shoulders of disorientated tourists on Oxford Street starts to wear a little thin, then why not inject a little class in to your Saturday?" Nell Frizzell, The London Word, 06/10/09.