Gifts galore at Vinegar Hill
It’s quite hard to find a good local high street gift shop these days, don’t you think? Either they’re national chains selling sub John Lewis type products, or they are so tiny that you don’t get the choice you want and there’s a mark up so high it involuntarily clenches the buttocks.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Henley recently, mostly imagining the riverside house my more successful self should have bought (yeah I know, dream on), and came across Vinegar Hill – do you know it? It opened in May this year on Duke St in central Henley, gratifyingly opposite Space NK (oh hallowed place of Muddy pleasure).
I had half an hour to burn so I stepped inside, and well, well, well, it was a very pleasant surprise. It’s huge for starters, much bigger than it looks from the outside, and bright, and well thought out – so there are really cool stuff in distinct areas for kitchen, weddings, home furnishings, kids, candles, books, wrapping and cards etc. It’s billed as a lifestyle emporium which makes sense, and its stock is more accessible and commercial than arty and concepty if you get my drift. The prices reflect that sharp commercial aesthetic too – they’re really competitive, even low I’d say. You could kit your house out beautifully for under £500.
I was talking to the guy at checkout and he was saying that although Vinegar Hill is a chain in the sense of there are about nine stores (closest ones to us, other than Henley are Windsor, Hitchin and Cheltenham and Stratford-upon-Avon ), actually it’s proper independent, owned by a local brother and two sisters, with the brother living in nearby Marlow.
I managed to take quite a lot of photos to show you, so have a scroll. The interior looks a bit busy on some of the pics but actually when you’re in there it’s relaxing as the aisles are wide enough to swing your granny and there’s what retail bods would probably call a ‘smooth customer journey’ (or what a sane person would describe as ‘a very pleasant mooch’). I ended up buying some small gifts for friends, but could have inflicted much more serious damage and probably will next time I’m back.
One word of warning if you’re only just adjusting into the final quarter of the year – Christmas has arrived in store (wahhhhhhhhh).
Well, it’s just the reality for retailers these days isn’t it, but let’s be grateful for small mercies – at least there was no Slade or The Pogues playing out of the speakers. I’m particularly disorganised and always seem to buy last minute for Christmas, but my terrifingly well-organised mother is probably reading this now and planning a trip within minutes. Well mother, if you wait until next Thursday Vinegar Hill is actually holding its Autumn/Winter launch between 6-9pm, and there’s bubbly on the go plus an extra 10% off usual prices. Go fetch!
I would at this point direct you to the website so you can see more of what they do at this store but it looks like it’s being rebuilt at the mo, so for now Vinegar Hill is definitely one of those places that you should drop into.
While you’re in Henley, check out Upstairs Downstairs, a quirky, ironically (I think) chintzy tea room, Fluidity fashion (just to see how the other half live – the clothes here are beautiful but astronomically expensive, and literally pop around the corner for lunch at The Three Tuns (superior pub grub) or The Bell on Bull Street. I was at The Bell around 5pm last night and it was really buzzy.
Vinegar Hill, 37-39 Duke Street, Henley, Oxfordshire, RG9 1UR. Tel: 01491 817998. Facebook (while you’re waiting for the website to launch)