“They have everything there, Mummy,” my daughter explained with some authority after her friend’s mother had taken them on shopping spree to buy Halloween costumes. She twirled around in her new outfit.
“What do you think of my tutu and horns?” she asked, and then without waiting for an answer she disappeared into her room and came out a moment later with what looked like a pair of dead birds.
“I have wings too!” she grinned and proceeded to pull them on like a rucksack.
Pausing for a moment at trying to comprehend having heard the words ‘tutu and horns’ in the same sentence, I smiled and said that I thought she made the perfect little devil.
I had driven past Pete’s Emporium several times while out in Porirua and judging by the pictures of people dressed in various costumes which were plastered all over the frontage, I had just assumed that this was the New Zealand equivalent of Fun & Frolics (Reading reference) or Wall’s Carnival Stores (very old Reading reference), and therefore not much use to me on a regular basis.
After checking out their website and I found out that they sold ‘gifts, fabric, buttons, lace, wigs, fancy dress, scrap booking, toys, tools, fishing equipment, paint, cards, zips, craft and art supplies, something in a box that we are not sure what it is, castor wheels, airguns, hats, t-shirts, stationery, parasols, ribbons, children that are left behind by their parents, and party supplies.’
Wondering how much one would have to pay for a lost child and desperately hoping to acquire the thing in the box, I drove into Porirua and parked outside the shop front.
The inside of the shop is obscured by opaque glass doors and so I had no idea what to expect as they slid open.
Like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket holders when they see the Chocolate Room for the first time, I stepped across the threshold and my eyes widened in surprise.
It was HUGE.
I started wandering around the aisles with Gene Wilder’s ‘Pure Imagination’ playing on a loop in my head, marvelling at the sheer breadth of items on offer here. Turning a corner, I was confronted with an entire aisle of fabric trims.
The shelves were stuffed full of every kind of trim you can imagine; sequins and lace, tribal and fringe, plain and patterned. I almost wished I could sew. Almost.
Next came the ribbons, stacked 10 shelves high in every colour of the rainbow. It reminded me of Mother Ribbony Rose’s shop in Enid Blyton’s Book of Fairies. For those who aren’t familiar with this old fashioned children’s story, she was a witch who was permitted to live on the borders of Fairyland because her shop sold such beautiful things such as ‘blue ribbons made of the mist that hangs over faraway hills‘, ‘sea-green ribbons embroidered with the diamond sparkles that glitter on sunny water’ and ‘ribbon made of pink sunset clouds mixed with almond blossom.’
As a little girl, I was obsessed with these evocative descriptions and I remember wishing that I could work in a ribbon shop too.
Unfortunately, that job was already taken by a little gnome called Pinkity who had a real talent for rolling ribbons, something of which I would make a right pig’s ear of. Poor Pinkity really should have belonged to a union because Mother Ribbon Rose was incredibly mean to him, breaching every employment law ever written including asserting that Pinkity belonged to her. Disgraceful.
Judging by the chaotic jumble of ribbons in various stages of unrolling, Pinkity must have finally lawyered up and gone on strike. But despite the disarray, I was captivated by the colours and textures on display.
In the next aisle were buttons and embellishments. The embellishments took up an entire side of the aisle and were carefully stacked in colour order. Each embellishment was housed in a little screw top jar and through the clear plastic I could see all manner of things from flowers and teddy bears to mini plastic bananas and bubble tea cups.
Taking up the back wall of this aisle were the buttons. These were contained in long plastic tubes which lay on their side on the shelf with a sample of their contents glued to the lid. What is it about buttons that is so mesmerising? My mother, an avid sewer and dressmaker, kept a brown biscuit tin full of random buttons into which I loved to plunge my little hands. As they slowly sunk in, I loved how the buttons enveloped my fingers like sand and the sound they made as I swirled them around the tin.
I guess being brought up by a mother who loved to sew must have had an impact on me as although I never inherited her skills, I do genuinely love looking at fabrics, buttons and ribbons. The most involved I ever got with sewing at home was picking up my mother’s copious quantities of dropped pins with a giant magnet shaped like a ring donut. Despite the monotonous nature of the task, I actually quite enjoyed it, watching the plain grey metal slowly turn into a porcupine as I ran it over the carpet.
After passing the party decorations aisle, I found the cake decorating aisle and now wished I had known about this place before I spent a fortune at Spotlight on icing and decorations for my kids birthday cakes. There were shelves and shelves of flavourings, icings and sprinkles, every size cake tin imaginable and a wall of cookie cutters suspended from metal rods displayed in colour order.
Glancing upwards I then saw the wigs.
High up on a shelf suspended over the aisle sat this strange and colourful audience. There must have been at least 100 on display and ranged from punk to permed in every hue possible.
I walked past an aisle of giant upholstery fabric rolls before the shop opened out into wider area in which rolls and rolls of fabrics were stacked atop one another. It was a dressmakers dream with every kind of fabric you could possibly imagine; cotton and jersey, tule and chiffon, silk and satin, wool and denim, velvet and chenille. And all of them at really reasonable prices.
After mooching around the fabric section for a while, I headed back into the maze of aisles and found the fishing section which had half an aisle of colourful, feathery lures, with the other half filled with sinkers, tackles and fishing knives. Next, I had a look around the hardware section which included aisles of screws and drill bits, sandpaper, hand tools, cork, chains, rope, doweling rods, and door handles.
And caster wheels. There was an entire wall of caster wheels.
I’ve never seen anything like it. There must have been well over 100 varieties and sizes here and I couldn’t for the life of me work out why you’d need such a big selection. I thought a wheel was a wheel but apparently not.
I couldn’t leave without looking at the Halloween offerings of which there were many given the time of year. First, I came across several aisles of regular costumes for both adults and children and another aisle for props. All the more gruesome stuff had been bunched together covering at least four aisles.
Want your 3 year old to become a New Orleans-style voodoo priest? No problem!
Laying out a Halloween spread for your mates but want to use something a bit more atmospheric that a boring old white table cloth? Pete’s Emporium have got the solution!
Axe-wielding maniacs no longer in vogue? Take your pick of these other tools and really stand out from the crowd!
Need something to scare the bejeezus out of those pesky trick or treaters? ‘Ghoul Impaled on Railings’ (realistic screaming and animatronics included) will have those little darlings running home quicker than you can say Michael Myers!
On the way out, I gave a brief nod to Mildred who, sandwiched between a cabinet of spray paint and a stand of umbrellas looked unhappy yet resigned to her duty serving invisible sandwiches to the departing customers.
I honestly could have spent hours in here and still not seen everything. This franchise is pretty amazing and judging by the number of people in the shop, really popular too.
This is definitely the place to come if you need…….well…….anything, really.