Sushi rolls in and music store turns up the volume as Paragon Arcade provides launchpad for independents

A Victorian arcade which makes dreams come true for independent traders has embarked on its latest round of recruitment and expansion.

Tom Would (left) and Matt Barker at Oishii Ne in Paragon Arcade

Oishii Ne – an Asian street food restaurant and take-away inspired by the Japanese phrase for “it’s delicious” – is the latest addition to the businesses at Paragon Arcade in Hull.

Meanwhile Out of the Attic – a record shop opened in the arcade in June 2020 by two old school pals – has expanded into a double unit with space to display more records, CDs, DVDs and t-shirts.

Allenby Commercial, who transformed all the units and attracted an array of niche businesses after buying Paragon Arcade in 2017, will soon announce new tenants for the remaining space as part of their plan to keep the offer fresh and fun.

Georgia Allenby, Design and Marketing Manager at Allenby Commercial, said: “Paragon Arcade is all about providing a launchpad for independent local businesses which bring great ideas and fit into the community spirit we have nurtured here.

“We have had some fantastic tenants. Some find their feet and move to bigger premises elsewhere, others expand to larger units here and we have a waiting list of people who want to move in when vacancies arise.”

Tom Would fell in love with Asian food during several trips to Japan and France – where he sharpened his skills with the help of a Japanese sushi master who was introduced by a friend.

He launched Oishii Ne as a pop-up in December 2020. His venues included Paragon Arcade and he jumped at the chance of opening his own place with a ground floor counter service and seating upstairs for 22 people.

Tom, whose previous jobs include barber and timber salesman, opens every day except Monday from 11am until 5pm, with a fortnightly Saturday evening service which sells out weeks ahead.

He said: “We opened in July and it’s been manic. We had a following anyway from our pop-ups and it’s gone up three-fold or more. A lot of people are still finding out about us – people who aren’t on social media and have discovered us in other ways, including by walking through the arcade.

“We’ve developed the menu as we’ve found out more about what our customers want and the chefs are coming up with a special every Thursday, such as furikake potatoes and some tempura dishes. There are three of us now plus two who help out part-time.

“They came up with our first dessert of Filipino banana float and that sold out in no time so we’ll be doing more. One of the chefs created a cocktail of sake and margarita and we know people want more of that as well!”

Andy Sparrow in Out of the Attic in Paragon Arcade

Gary Matfin and Andy Sparrow used to save their school dinner money to spend in Hull city centre at the legendary Sydney Scarborough record shop as well as in HMV, Our Price, Boots and Woolworths.

Gary said: “HMV is still around but Boots doesn’t sell records any more and the others are long gone. We always said we wanted to open our own record shop and 40 years later we did it!

“Initially we had no idea whether there would be any interest in the business but it has just grown and we have been blown over by the support we have had. People seem to like what we do and where we are. It’s the kind of shop you would expect to find in an arcade.

“It’s a community down here. Each shop is different and has something unique to offer and often we work together. When Record Store Day comes round we let the other businesses know and our neighbours Milchig sell coffee and cookies to the people in our queue.

“When we go on our travels we are always looking for new lines – things that people like and that aren’t expensive. It’s records, CDs, t-shirts, patches, badges, DVDs – the sort of stuff we used to look for when we were kids.

“We just outgrew the first shop. We had an upstairs but people didn’t really venture up there so a double unit lets us lay out the stock better and show people what we have got. The plan now is to continue to offer something a bit different, things that you won’t find elsewhere in the city.”