Just outside of the walls in the north-west side of the city, you’ll find a district of York which is commonly referred to by locals as the fifth quarter. Bounded by two adjacent streets, Gillygate and Bootham, the fifth quarter plays host to a tight-knit community of independent enterprises with an even tighter-knit community of traders.
From 2015, the fifth quarter saw what many called a ‘renaissance’, independent businesses flocked to the streets of Gillygate and Bootham in the hopes of creating one of York’s new hotspots for independent businesses to flourish.
In 2016, a handful of traders from the two streets and other like-minded locals came together to form their very own business association which was aptly named, the Fifth Quarter; a collective of independent business owners and shoppers. The collective works to bring traders together to create a sense of belonging within the independent community, and to allow members to exchange visionary ideas for the area.
From then on, the fifth quarter has gone from strength to strength; and although we have already acknowledged these two streets as a go-to spot for all things design, this in no way limits what you can find here. With this list of stellar independents, you’ll be sure to find something for everyone.
We’ll start on Gillygate, which many York natives as well as locals pronounce incorrectly with a hard G, as in gate or golf, but it is in fact pronounced as if the G were a J, like jelly. As with most highstreets, you’ll likely find a convenience store, but here on Gillygate, there’s one with a difference hoping to make a difference.
Fairer World is one of the first stops on your trip down this street, and perhaps one of Gillygate’s longest standing businesses; selling food, clothing, crafts, household items, and cards all exclusively fair-trade. Run by owners Charlie and Moira for over thirty years, Fairer World works to promote sustainable lifestyles and directly contributes to the welfare, education, and healthcare of communities in developing countries.
A little further down the street you’ll find family owned café/restaurant, Bistro Guy. During the day, Bistro Guy serves as a go-to cosy café with hot drinks and sweet treats galore, whilst in the evening transforming seamlessly into a restaurant; serving an extensive range of local beers brewed in traditional wooden casks and sourdough pizzas cooked in a traditional clay oven.
Many cafés and restaurants on Gillygate have made use of the outdoor area at the back of the premises, looking onto the city walls, and Bistro Guy is one of them. Owner and chef Guy Whapples specifically chose to serve his clay oven baked pizzas to make use of the space and encourage customers to enjoy the city greenery.
Also utilising their own precious green space is Love Cheese, who specialise in, you guessed it, cheese. In this successful combination of shop and café, they sell and serve up independently produced cheeses, sourced from local dairies.
Whether you’re in the cosy café out front, or the stylish patio out the back, you can enjoy platters of your favourite cheeses, meats, and pickles, washed down with a glass (or two) of wine.
Just across the street is the retro gaming store, Sore Thumbs; a treasure trove for those wanting a serious dose of gaming nostalgia. The shop is filled wall to wall entirely with retro gaming paraphernalia including, consoles, accessories, games, merchandise, you name it.
But what is a passion if you can’t share it? Fear not, the staff at Sore Thumbs have a passion for gaming which will likely match your own, and are willing to go above and beyond to guide you through your quest to find collectors editions or any other rarities in their extensive stock.
Another Gillygate independent which was founded from the owner’s own passion is Rebound Records. Rebound’s proprietor David worked for 25 years as a rock and roll DJ, but becoming frustrated with the direction the music scene was heading in, he looked for an alternative; as an avid record collector himself, it came naturally for David to establish his own record store.
A lot of David’s taste is reflected in his meticulous collection of records, with indie guitar and jazz genres being particularly strong, although there is certainly a little something for all vinyl junkies and music fans.
And if you’re looking for somewhere to give that LP a spin, look no further than across the road to Sound Organisation. Their impressive showroom boasts a range of well-known British brands such as Rega, Naim, and Linn, and showcase a whole plethora of products from headphones and wireless music systems, to turntables and loudspeakers.
In here, you’ll also find two kitted-out listening rooms which have been carefully designed so as customers are able to experience as closely as possible how their speaker or turntable of choice will sound at home.
If you’ve have youngsters in tow, a trip around the corner onto Bootham won’t go amiss, as you can spend a whole afternoon getting crafty at Rainbows ceramic painting studio. In here, you can take as long as you need painting your ceramic item of choice to perfection; from dog ornaments to clock faces, after a trip to the kiln you’ll soon be on your way home with memento of your trip to the fifth quarter.