The Queer Emporium – Royal Arcade’s queer haven

Source: nancydowd (via Pixabay)

By Jessica Clifford-Jones | Review Editor

The Queer Emporium sits right in the entrance of the Morgan Quarter, impossible to miss with its vibrant colours and big windows that lets you see all of the magic inside. Within a week of opening, both the arcades – the Royal Arcade, where the store resides, and Morgan Arcade – were decorated with a vast array of pride flags as a show of support for Morgan Quarter’s new addition. Opposite is the gay cabaret bar Mary’s; Yan White, the owner of the Queer Emporium, jokes, “We’re hopefully creating a bit of a new queer street in Cardiff, which is kind of fun!”

The Queer Emporium originally opened as a pop-up store for Pride Month earlier this year, but (to my great joy) it is now here to stay. A collective of over 15 LGBTQ+ businesses under one roof (all of whom are eco-friendly), entering the Queer Emporium for the first time was a delightfully overwhelming experience for me and every time since it’s been impossible not to leave with something, be it an art print, a pair of quirky earrings, or simply a snack from their café section. Every time I see it, it seems to evolve further; it now has an outside café area to sit down and enjoy their baked goods.

Upon entering, the first thing that catches my eye every time is their book section, split into helpful categories to help you navigate. Queer bookshop Paned O Gê had been primarily online before, but the Queer Emporium has given it its first physical presence in Cardiff. Its collection of books, graphic novels and zines are always a joy to browse and it’s wonderful to have queer literature made so easily accessible.

The store jewellery section includes products from Kelzo Jewellery, whose colourful pieces made of polymer clay are adorable, and Candy Goblins, whose quirky earrings are delightful. Plants from Tropigaz add a homey feel to the store and beside it is a collection of pride flags and beautiful mythology-inspired art prints by illustrator Mythsntits. Recently binders have been provided to the store by G(end)er Swap, a clothing outreach organisation; it’s great to see binders become more accessible and, being sold for £15, affordable.

The store contains so many wonders to discover, more than I can name here, and I would encourage anyone to go check it out; with the number of companies that reside there, you can understand why it’s called an emporium.

The Queer Emporium has collaborated with many other stores, including vegan pie store the Pie Box, tea shop Bird & Blend, and cocktail bar Lab 22, just to name a few. They also host a number of events, ranging from stand-up comedy to drag shows to cabaret performances; you can keep up with their upcoming events on their social media. Notable people who’ve been involved are local drag queen Victoria Scone, who appeared on season 3 of Rupaul’s Drag Race UK as the first cis woman contestant, and Owen Hurcum, mayor of Bangor and the first non-binary mayor of any city. The store has also given opportunities for new people to get involved with drag performances and stand-up comedy; for example, their event Draglings allowed anyone to get on stage and perform.

The sense of community that the Queer Emporium has created and continues to create is extraordinary. I’m amazed at the atmosphere of inclusivity and pride they have established in under a year and I’m excited to see what they’ll do with even more time.

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