Tucked in a tiny railway arch under the main line into Newcastle Central Station is a unique gift and present shop, UpSide Down Presents.

The shop was opened in early 2014 by Sean Gerrie, a Newcastle-Upon-Tyne local who invested all his life savings in starting up the business. He said: “The shop is the absolute embodiment of a small business. It’s a small space, under 200 square feet, but was ideal for a sole trader like me. I like small spaces and it was affordable, so I invested all my savings and maxed out my credit to fit the space out and stock up ready to open. It fitted really nicely with the concept for UpSide Down Presents – the whole notion of gifting is making the little things matter.”

Located at 61 Side, at the bottom of Dean Street, UpSide Down Presents is just a short walk from Tyne Bridge, Quayside and Newcastle Castle, making it ideally placed to attract souvenir-hunters and local people looking for quirky gifts and cards. Sean said: “We’re well known for our original greetings cards, which are Northern-themed and produced by some really creative crafters who are local folk. We’ve become the go-to place for locals looking for something different to what they’ll find in the card factory stores dominating the high streets. We’ve also filled every square inch of the shop with local photography and prints, magnets, postcards, tea towels and the like. After the closure of the local Tourist Information and Visitor Centre up the street, we started to attract a lot more customers.”

In fact, the shop became so popular that Sean was looking for more space and in 2018 the arch across the road fell vacant. He said: “It’s always been my dream to have both shops under the one archway so when I managed to secure the unit opposite, I was over the moon! We grew into a smaller shop, as the unit opposite was even smaller than UpSide Down Presents! Now we focus on cards and gifts to build on UpSide Down’s quirky reputation, and the opposite unit is a dedicated independent souvenir shop, called Souvenirs Upon Tyne.”

Both shops have become Newcastle institutions, with Sean and his border terrier Oscar becoming well known to local people and fellow business owners in nearby streets and railway arches. He’s been a prominent voice in leading a campaign to improve the local area and resolve issues, such as crime and anti-social behaviour, which have impacted the community. The Coronavirus lockdown had a devastating impact locally, as Sean explains: “We had to close both shops and lots of other independent businesses around here have been forced to do the same. I’m trying to make a mark by doing business quite traditionally, but also a bit differently, so I’ve worked hard to support a whole chain of other small independent businesses and celebrate lots of local creators and craftspeople. The Arch Company, our landlord, provided some rent support, which was very helpful and appreciated, and we got some government grants for each of the shops, but weren’t eligible for the furlough or self-employment schemes. It’s been tough, but I’m an optimistic person, as I’ve built two successful shops from nothing. We won’t give up easily.”

UpSide Down Presents reopened at the end of July with reduced opening hours and a series of extra safety measures in place to respond to Covid-19. Sean has incorporated the souvenir side of the business back into UpSide Down Presents and kept Souvenirs Upon Tyne closed for the moment to keep costs down. He said: “Footfall is down, but with people looking at staycations because it’s much riskier to go abroad, we’ve seen more visitors start to come into the area. Life is extra hard for us all at the moment, but each and every one of us has a responsibility to support one another and there’s a growing appreciation for smaller, independent businesses now. To keep the vibrant array of shops in the arches, people need to pay them a visit either online or in person. It’s important to keep momentum and positive vibes and campaigns like #loveyourlocalarches are great for raising awareness of shops like mine.”

 

Bottom of Dean St, Newcastle upon Tyne

61side.co.uk

@61side