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Café looks back with a vintage eye
12:52pm Tuesday 14th August 2012 in Features
Whether you want vintage furniture or a slice of Victoria sponge, MAXINE GORDON finds the perfect outlet in York
AS a child, Katie Pask dreamt of running an antiques shop. “I’d set up my stall then ring a little bell to declare the shop opened,” says Katie, with a hearty chuckle.
Today, she’s playing shops for real, with good friend Maureen Scott. The pair once worked together at the city council in adult education, although Katie’s love affair with the past led her to set up a business, Hello Vintage, leasing retro china.
Some of these pieces are on sale at Flax & Twine, an emporium of the eclectic with a vintage vibe.
Spread over three floors in a higgledy-piggledy Grade II-listed building on Shambles (opposite Cox’s), the business took its name from the history books. Centuries ago, a family firm selling flax and twine operated from here.
Walking across the sloping floors, up the wooden stairs, taking in the exposed beams and original fireplaces, time almost stands still.
Then you hear the whirr of the coffee machine in the upstairs café, and there is no mistaking that we are in the 21st century.
The women are proud that their café uses as many local ingredients and suppliers as possible; from the cakes and coffee to their tartlets and chutneys, all have been made or sourced in Yorkshire.
Among the cake selection is a gluten-free Victoria sponge, as well as carrot cake, chocolate cake, lemon drizzle and Yorkshire Parkin. A range of sandwiches and platter dishes and a soup of the day are also available. The café also serves afternoon tea.
The business also runs a series of craft workshops from a second-floor room. It is here too where private functions such as parties and hen dos can take place.
On the ground floor, a colourful display of home-wear and gifts unfolds.
Pretty lampshades dangle in the window; colourful paper pompoms decorate the stairwell, along with floral garlands. All cost under £15 and are best sellers.
“People might not have the time or money to redecorate, to buy paint or wallpaper, but they can buy these little touches to freshen things up,” says Katie.
Lovers of the past can feast on the likes of vintage cutlery canteens, ornate Barbola mirrors with their distinctive paste flowers, and quirky wooden dressers in distressed colours which date from the 1940s and have been imported from Hungary.
“Women come in and look at these and drool,” says Katie. “While the men come in and say; ‘that needs a lick of paint’.”
But there are the exceptions: like the romantic who seized a kitsch picnic set which it broke Maureen’s heart to sell. “He said it was for his girlfriend and that she would love it, so that was OK,” added Maureen.
Glass storage jars from Denmark with pretty pink motifs on the front and enamel bird boxes, made by a Fair Trade collective, are just some of the other desirable pieces in store. There is also a range of vintage fabrics and ribbons as well as greetings cards, wraps and gift tags.
On Mondays, the women “hire out” the upstairs space to “freelancers and creative types” who, for a fee of £10, can make themselves at home from 10am-4pm and enjoy coffee, lunch and cake and wi-fi in the deal.
“We’ve had people come in with their knitting and even someone come in and do artwork,” says Katie. “People working from home can get a bit lonely, so it’s nice for them to come here.”
Flax & Twine, 20 Shambles, York Tel: 01904 289151
Open daily 10am-5pm, from 11am on Sundays.
Upcoming courses at Flax & Twine include:
• Saturday, September 8 Intro to Crochet, £35 including lunch, 11am to 3pm
• Sunday, September 16 Sewing for Beginners, £32 including refreshments, 1pm to 3pm
• Saturday, October 20 Move on in Crochet (Improvers), £35 including lunch, 11am to 3pm
• Thursday, October 25 Make a ‘Scrappy’ Purse, £25 including refreshments, 6pm to 8.30pm