, as it's name suggests, is a shop dedicated to scaly pond-life and creatures of the sea. Customers range from the youngest of pocket money punters looking to spend, perhaps pounds 2 on bath magnets, through to friends of serious fishermen seeking suitable birthday presents like waxed jackets or 'salmon' mugs.
When owner Andrew Maclean, himself a widely travelled fly fisherman, opened the shop he decided not to bother with tackle but rather to concentrate on fish related merchandise and memorabilia. "People who want to buy fishermen gifts are often nervous going into tackle shops as they don't know what to buy. It's a bit like me going into a fashion shop to buy my wife something!".
Maclean's instincts paid off. After all, as shop manager (and proud owner of Fly Fishing by J R Hartley - yes, it really does exist!) Ian MacGregor says, 98 per cent of themed bathrooms are sea related. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary items to grace those bathroom shelves would be a fearsome-looking dried piranha (pounds 15) smuggled back by Maclean from a fishing trip to the Amazonian basin. "I packed 40 in my suitcases because it was very complicated to get any paperwork done so they ended up wrapped in every pair of knickers I had with me!".
In general though the stock is not at all scary and prices are keen. Fish come in all forms from popular dolphins and colourful fun fish to serious domestic species. Fun fish pens cost pounds 6 ("I've seen them on sale for pounds 16 - very naughty" says Ian), fish wrapping paper at pounds 1.50 is a must and quality mugs (pike, carp, catfish , salmon and trout) cost pounds 5. Other lines include mobiles, fish coat-pegs, very kitsch salt and pepper shakers at pounds 13, and there's a three foot inflatable fish for pounds 8.
, Unit 14a, Thomas Neal's, Shorts Gardens, London WC2H 9AT (0171 240 6277).
When Patricia Crouch opened The Cat Shop ten years ago her success was assured when a black cat appeared, seemingly from nowhere, marched into the shop and stayed for the day. Benson has been returning ever since and Patricia posts him back to his owner through his cat flap each night.
An artist by training, Crouch spent many years fund raising for the Cats Protection League, and this love of cats inspired her to set up her gift shop which stocks over 3,000 lines of cat related merchandise. Having lots of cat friendly artist and potter friends helped "I think one of the secrets of our success is that we get many things made exclusively for us which we sell along with the bread and butter lines".
Customers range from collectors and breeders wanting rare pieces of sculpture, to pet owners seeking cat artefacts that in some way resemble their own moggy. If you can't find Tibbles in the shop, commissions are taken to have ornaments made up from photographs (from pounds 35). Or for something a little larger how about a life-size model of your own cat (estimates given).
Less ambitious customers can buy t-shirts (from pounds 7.99) and cat jewellery (pounds 2.95 to pounds l50 for a hand-made piece). Or how about the very latest craze from the US, the ultimate wedding accessory - cat confetti (see picture left) in gold or rainbow colours at pounds 2.50 a bag.
The Cat Shop, 21 Prince Albert St, Brighton
Feathers Gallery, is a small gallery and shop for bird lovers. So enthusiastic was it's director Martin Thompson, whose life-long love affair with birds started in the 1950s when he watched his enthusiast uncles record and ring birds, that he had no trouble enlisting the services of well known "twitcher" Bill Oddie to trumpet the shop's launch in March this year.
This fledgling gallery sells gift items such as cards, table mats (from pounds 25 for six) and flying ducks for pounds 25 along with more serious birds made from ceramic, wood and bronze and specialist publications. Martin's largest range and particular pride and joy is his selection of colourful hand- carved European and African wooden birds (from pounds 89) from Feathers of Knysna, a workshop with its own artists based in South Africa.
Permanent reminders of favourite species from Robin, Wagtail and Sparrow to rarer Green Wing Teal, Avocet or Black Egret grace shelves and cabinets. Watercolour paintings by British artists such as Felicity Priest (pounds 485) share space with framed prints including some by Sir Peter Scott (from pounds 50). The single most expensive item in the gallery is a stunning bronze Osprey at pounds 5,990 though most sculptures hover between pounds 50 ("wedding present price") and pounds 150.
A small percentage of profits will benefit Bird Life International, the international branch of the RSPB.
.Feathers Gallery, 113 Shepherds Bush Road, Brook Green, London W6 7LP (O171 371 2611)Reuse content