Saturday, 26 May 2018

Back in Ballymena | #Ballymenameansfashion

I was fortunate enough to be invited back up to Ballymena on Thursday to take part in their #Ballymenameansfashion initiative again (last year's post is here if you want a read). The shops in the town all contribute to a group called Ballymena BID and this group then invests the funding back into putting the town on the map as a great place to shop. Which it is - I knew that before they contacted me. We've been coming up to the town to shop there since I was pregnant with my 14 year old and we still have furniture and lighting we bought on those visits.
The town weathered the slow down in retail all through the recent recession and thanks to lots of investment in the infrastructure, including a ton of frustrating roadworks (now finished) Ballymena is definitely flexing its retail muscles again. I can even see a difference since I blogged about it last year.
This year things were a bit different with a breakfast event in Middletown Coffee Co, which involved a panel discussion about the challenges of retail and how social media can really help a small business, followed by the most delicious breakfast.
It was time to shop then and on this visit, I wanted to visit a couple of places I'd been before (as they're so good) AND get around to a few I didn't visit the last time so with the former in mind, I started in McKillens Shoes.
 Because you know, shoes....my weakness. But they also have bags...beautiful bags!
I have a tan bag want going on and for my birthday next week, I'm thinking of investing in something lovely. This one from the Bridge is amazing though pricy
but I think I like the matt effect of the leather in this Gianni Conti bag, a more palatable £189.
and they have the latest version of the Radley cross body which is £119.
This burgundy Radley is stunning
Then it was over to the shoes and I had such a great chat with the owner and Karen who works there (and had just begun following me on Instagram) and ended up trying on these Clarks shoes.
I tried on both colours but I think I prefer the grey and they didn't have my size. I'm going to order it in though and next time I'm wearing jeans up as I want to see what they look like with a skinny jean before I buy.

A hop and a skip down the road and I was at Outdoor Adventure, the kind of shop you will find everything in. And it's a main stockist of Rab outdoor wear.
It's the most charming mix of old fashioned shop and savvy retail business with Roy the owner really tapping into the different niches he knows he can deliver on, like for instance the viewing platform upstairs where you can try out his range of telescopes and binoculars - nosy neighbour heaven!
It's the place you can buy a wooly hat and down coat in July, or kit the kids out for Duke of Edinburgh, find an antique piece of jewellery or a Ballymena Mug or Teatowel
Next up, I called into Just, which is owned by Camerons and based across the street from the well known department store. It's a lovely shop with a great selection of Lighthouse Clothing, Joules and favourite brand of mine - Louche. Fab jewellery and accessories too.

In an attempt to multitask a bit more (choir concert on Sunday night!!) I had booked to have my nails done during the morning in Flamingo Fitness, a woman only gym with a beauty salon too, that had come recommended to me by Alison Moore who heads up the Ballymena BID. I had a BioSculpture Manicure and the girls wouldn't let me pay for it - a lovely treat. Thanks to Flamingo Fitness.
Then it was back to the shopping and even though I'd been to Marmalade last time (and since to their Belfast shop many times) I still had to peep in for a look at their 50% off sale. 

This dress didn't come home with me unfortunately but I might have taken a punt on that fab patterned jacket.
The Tower Centre was next on the list and I'd been recommended to check out Exhibit, recently re-opened opposite Primark. The owner, Sam, has a menswear shop next to it called Sam's Warehouse but I was straight in to explore in Exhibit....
a brand that has reinvented itself into a much more stylish offering. Full of gorgeous casual tops and denim, including Tommy Hilfiger. Loads of lovely blues and cottons - I was so impressed. Tried on a few bits and added more to my wish list. You can see their new website on this link. Not everything is online but you can message or phone them if you want more information.
 

Back through to the other side of the Tower Centre and I made my way down to Ultimate in Fashion on Wellington Street where the window was looking bang on trend 💛
Libis and the team at Ultimate in Fashion
The owner Libis had spoken on the panel at the morning session in Middletown Coffee so we'd had a chat then about me trying on some bits and pieces in the shop. You can find them on Facebook and Libis would be delighted if you gave her a follow. You can send a message on there if you have any questions about what I tried on.



Time was running out for me so my second last shop was Wallaces
- which has had a fantastic refurbishment and now opens right through to the next street up (Church Street). Shoes first - Wallaces are famed for their footwear and most can be bought online:
 
 
Can't seem to stop trying on white trainers...
Then it was upstairs as I had been told there was a growing range of ladies wear that was worth checking out.
A big shout out to the team who made me feel so welcome and for showing me a complete hidden gem - a factory sale rail of Magee Clothing.
Beautiful wool blazers and jackets down from £300 to £79, silk blouses and tops for less than £20 and 100% cashmere knits for £25. Well worth investigating and stocking up for Winter 2018.
And I had a stroll through their MASSIVE men's section which has been recently refurbished. It has a fabulous reputation that's been built up for many decades and men come from all over Northern Ireland for suits and shoes.

My final visit of the day was to a wee gem of a chemist on Church Street - Woodsides. Still fitted out in the old mahogany glass cabinets of old with original labels on the drawers.
They even found this antique unit filled with old prescriptions from as far back as 1915 when they were dismantling a Rimmel Make up stand from the 60's that had been built to cover it up. You can call in just to see the prescription book and the antique chemist equipment in this beautiful dresser.
However, Woodsides is a thoroughly modern chemist from the point of view of the products it sells and the service it offers. There's an Elizabeth Arden counter, a massive range of Vichy products (the biggest I've seen in any chemist locally), perfumes, pharmacy and photography...basically everything you would expect to find in any modern pharmacy. With some welcome old fashioned customer service though. I was warmly greeted and looked after by the lovely Kathryn.
As well as the Jenny Glow perfumes that I've spoken about before on here, they sell the Verset range of perfumes where are dupes for different brands of women's and men's fragrances like D&G and Thierry Mugler.
You can pick up a small handbag sized bottle for less than £5! I'm still a sucker for the Jenny Glow though and decide to try the White Jasmine and Mint which I've never tried before. A beautiful fresh fragrance for this time of year.
And that was it - my school run alarm was buzzing and it was time for me to hit the road. Of course, I left without having seen all the shops I wanted to see but isn't that the beauty of making the effort of going to a regional town - feeling like you only scratched the surface and wanting to come back! I was particularly disappointed to miss out on the food and drink options, especially the free drink that was waiting for me in xx and the coffee and chocolate treats in Chocoa Cafe. But I'll be back....it's no more than 40 minutes from Belfast and it's £1 to park for 5 hours. There's no excuse.

I'll leave you with a picture of all the bloggers involved in the project - most of them will have blog posts up in the coming days about their trip...the nice thing is that everyone covered a different mix of shops so you'll see places on their blogs that you didn't see here.
Thanks to Ballymena BID for having me in the town again! I hope you enjoyed the story of my day.

Ax
Disclaimer - I was paid for my time and mileage on this trip but was not obliged to or paid to write this blog post. I had a £20 voucher for Wallaces which I put toward my trainer purchase. I also had a voucher for Exhibit which covered the cost of my white top.

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