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The Comedy of Errors

A Look Inside That Weird Shop

23 July 21 words: Lilith Hudson
photos: Tom Morley

Weird and wonderful: the best way to describe the recent addition to Sneinton’s shopping scene, That Weird Shop. We spoke with shop owner Zero about opening a business during a pandemic, his ambitious expansion of stores and why we should all embrace a bit of weirdness in our lives...

Walking into That Weird Shop on a sunny Friday afternoon is a bit like walking into the Addams family mansion: a demonic doll stares me in the face, skulls line the display cabinets and a coffin takes pride of place in the centre of the shop floor. The peculiarity is captivating. It’s like one of those situations where you want to look away but you just can’t, curiosity takes the better of you. 

Of course, a shop like this wouldn’t exist without an eccentric owner. Zero is better known locally as a musician but now has the added title of That Weird Shop proprietor. 

He enthusiastically guides me around his treasure trove of trinkets. One of the first things I notice is the sheer amount of everything. Stuff is literally piled high from floor to ceiling. "That’s what everyone says when they come in," Zero assures me. "I didn’t want to open up an empty shop. The worst thing you can do is go into a shop and wonder where everything is." As far as interior design goes, That Weird Shop really takes the meaning of maximalism to a whole new level. 

The shop prides itself in selling unique, original items. (Where else would you expect to find a two-headed Teletubbie bag?) "We want to do our best to find someone the things that they don’t know they want yet," says Zero. This is certainly the place to come if you’re stuck for gift ideas. Display cabinets house handmade leather purses, personalised pyrography gifts and a personal favourite, a 3D-printed chewbacca mug made to fit a beer can - the perfect gift for Father’s day. 

We’re the only place in town where you can come and play Mortal Kombat free of charge!

Zero eagerly shows me their range of vintage and handmade collectibles: Doctor Who, Star Wars, Transformers, Power Rangers, Avengers - the whole shebang. I’m led over to what he calls his "horror section". Gargoyles, spell bottles and ouija boards line the shelves. It’s like Ariel the mermaid’s secret grotto but with a spooky twist. 

By the shop counter is That Weird Shop’s take on a funfair classic, the unlucky dip. Prizes include a CD, jewelry, DVD and a comic. I tentatively ask what’s so unlucky about it, half expecting a severed finger to be thrown in the mix. "It could be anything, that’s the unlucky side of it!" Zero explains. "You could get a Ronan Keating record in there if you’re a metal head."

Zero isn’t just setting up an independent business of his own, he’s supporting other small businesses too. Lots of the gifts in the cabinets are from independent sellers, such as Deviant Angel, who sell alternative curios that fit right into Zero’s shop. "They [Deviant Angel] used to have a shop in Hurts Yard," he tells me. "Unfortunately they had to close down so I took them on and said, ‘Look, I’m opening this place up, let’s have a bit of your stuff in.’" He plans to support the local music scene too by offering to sell band tees, CDs and other merch.  

It doesn’t stop at gimmicky gizmos either. As a musician, Zero stocks instruments and records aplenty. "We have a full range of electric and acoustic instruments, amplification, drum kits - all aimed at the second-hand sustainable market." He explains that most of this stuff is recycled or revamped by him. By fixing and cleaning up old instruments, Zero gives them a new lease of life and then sells them at affordable prices. 

I’m led to a second room out the back, complete with a football table and Mortal Kombat machine. "We’re the only place in town where you can come and play Mortal Kombat free of charge!" He hopes to hold some gaming competitions in the future.

Our conversation inevitably turns to the struggles involved with opening a business during a pandemic. In fact, the day we speak only marks That Weird Shop’s 90th day being open. The shop originally opened its doors last September as Zero’s birthday gift to himself. Alas, COVID meant that they were forced to close for the first four months of the year. I ask how business had been since restrictions were lifted. "It’s been a bit slow but I think people are still hesitant to spend money or come outside. We’ve got masks and sanitiser and all that stuff - we just want everyone to feel as safe as possible in here." 

Despite all the challenges life has thrown, Zero now has a new venture on the horizon. He’s expanding his business to open two more branches, one down the road in Mansfield and one further afield in Leeds. The store in Mansfield is tucked away in the The Arcade Treasure Chest within Handley Arcade. "I had a lot of people from Mansfield coming down to come to the shop because there wasn’t anything like this up there, so I thought why not put one in." 

If you’re a bit odd or strange, it’s a safe place for you to come

The shop in Leeds is due to open on Wednesday 1 September. I have to tell Zero how much I respect his ambition. Opening a start-up business isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone within the midst of a pandemic. "Go big or don’t bother, that’s the way I play it," he says confidently. "Sometimes life throws you opportunities and you’ve got to take them."

Comforted with the knowledge I’d be causing no offence, I ask what inspired Zero to open a shop so… well, weird. He mentions how the word weird usually has a negative connotation. "We get called weird if we’re a bit alternative or we’ve got different colour hair or look a bit different," he says. "For me, the weirder and stranger the better!"

But besides the element of intrigue that entices customers to his shop, there’s a profundity in the way Zero is so welcoming of the more unconventional among us. "If you’re a bit odd or strange, it’s a safe place for you to come. Everyone’s accepted here, there is no demographic or sense of ‘you look like that so we don’t like you’. Everyone can come here."

With that, Zero really hits the nail on the head. In my ditsy floral summer dress I probably looked the most out of place you could imagine. In all honesty, I admit that a lot of the stuff in the shop isn’t my style, but I still find the cutest pair of miniature doll earrings that I just can't resist purchasing. They have some less out-there ones too, like the little stegosaurus earrings which give you a bit of edge without drawing too much attention. 

Why not come on down to take a look for yourself? Whether it’s pin-up rockabilly dresses, punky leather jackets or crocheted nipple badges - yes, you heard that right - there really is something here for everybody.

thatweirdshop.co.uk
@Thatweirdshopnottingham

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