I’d been told about Tom’s Emporium three times before I got around to going.
The first two times I was quite drunk, it was late, and by the next morning had kinda forgotten about it. Instead the legend of Tom’s embedded itself into the back of my brain, like some mythical Narnia of Crafts that I had created within my imagination.
However on Friday night, in a somewhat less fuzzy state, Tom’s came up for a third time in conversation, and realising ‘hey this place is REAL!’ I decided that if I was going to do ONE thing this weekend, it was to go to Tom’s.
Tom’s Emporium is on Riccarton Road, next to the railway line, across the road from Dux Dine. The reason it had taken on almost fantasy status in my mind, was because every time I’d been told about it, the words to describe it were always along the lines of ‘oh wow it is so fucking amazing it’s like WHOA some craft-jackpot better than anything you’ve ever been to, I promise you, it’s THAT good, and OMG it’s SO cheap and really WEIRD and it also sells hardware and HUNTING KNIVES…you are going to flip out and LOVE it’.
Well shit, this really sounds like my vibe. But also. Too good to be true? Nowhere can be THAT great, surely?
So on Saturday afternoon, I made my debut pilgrimage to this most hyped of unknown places.
Firstly. It has loads of parking. That’s a dull-as-hell thing to say. I hate myself for having to say it. But this is Riccarton Road. I know the torture of that place. You do need to know that the location is not nearly as painful as it sounds.
From the outside it just looks like your standard discount store. It’s painted a pretty blase grey. There’s some signage showing stock-image art supplies. One of those inflatable, green and red, Christmas archways, with a Santa and a Snowmen, lurks at the entrance. So far, all very standard. I’ll be honest. At this point, I wondered if I had indeed been oversold Tom’s Dream.
But my fears were quickly cast aside. As soon as I walked in the nice lady behind the counter complimented my comically over-sized 90’s R&B dungarees to a very ego-pleasing level. I took six more steps, and another staff member paid me the exact same compliment. And I was like, shit, these women have good taste, I am truly among friends.
I immediately turned the corner to be confronted by the EXACT brand of white sage incense that I dearly love and ran out of months ago (long story but involves my birthday party, not having any candles for my cake, and all of my friends believing that half a dozen sticks of sage incense would be an appropriate alternative…which when you think about it is a bloody good way to clear all bad vibes out of your life as you head into a new birth year) and have not been able to find since. Well they were $1 a box. I picked up three boxes. Of course.
So far so good.
Kept walking and oh wow the real potential of Tom’s was starting to become apparent. Aisles of every party supply, balloon, costume and decoration you could ever think of. Then some aisles of top quality art supplies – brushes, paint, spray cans, blades, paper, clay and HOLY FUCKING SHIT ONE KILOGRAM BAGS OF GLITTER FOR FIFTEEN DOLLARS. Hello, lover.
And sure enough, behind the art supplies was a hardware section. Tools. Reels of rope. Fastenings. Fishing rods. And yup, and entire large cabinet of every kind of hunting knife you could wish for. You know the startling, excessive, kinds you see casually lying around on market stalls when on holiday in Bali. Yep, those.
Sure, this stuff was cool. But the full power and glory of Tom’s was about to reveal itself to me. Just like the Craft Narnia of my dreams, I ventured back, back, to the rear of the building, pushing past the artificial flowers and party wigs…to the crown jewel of Toms’ : THE HABERDASHERY SECTION!!!
It felt like another world. A slightly shambolic, messy, cluttered other world that needed a good rummage and close eye for detail, but a world full of happiness, dreams and potential.
Half of this section is made up of long rows of massive rolls of fabric – velvet, Mexican cotton, tulle, metallic Lycra, faux fur that would make the brightest, campest, muppets you ever did see – most of it between $6-15 per metre.
The other half is squished in aisles lined with every kind of fixing, trim, adornment and tool imaginable.
It reminded me of when I went to New York and spent an entire afternoon in the Garment District, hopping from shop to shop, all lined up, each selling just one kind of specialty item – the feather shop, the sequin shop, the zip shop, the rhinestone shop, the button shop….each aisle was like a mini version of each of these shops.
Row upon row of jars filled with plastic beads and adornment of the most fabulous and whimsical nature – baguettes, teddy bear heads, fries, fruits, kittens, soda cans, shoes, bells and dice.
Another row and it’s just buckles and googly eyes. The next is shelves of embroidered trimmings from all over the world in the most amazing colours and patterns, frills, fluff and pom-poms.
Oh boy. Vast open containers of safety pins – plastic and metal. Wool. Feathers. Badges. It’s all there and like nothing else we have in town.
In the end I was very restrained and limited myself to just an hour in there. I came away with 3 metres of red and white gingham fabric ($10 per metre). 8x red large resin buttons (80c each). Some candy stripe Christmas wrapping paper ($3). My beloved sage incense ($1 a box). A cute metal die cut deer/ heart thing that I really did not need but really wanted cos it’s twee as hell ($1.70). And some thread. It came to $40 in total. Bloody ripper.
So often these places of legend only serve to let you down, once you actually get there.
But oh no. Not Tom’s. Tom’s is one of the rare exceptions where the hype does not do it justice.
Narnia can keep its snow and Turkish Delight. My Narnia is a chaotic and cluttered chintz filled haven, lined with plastic jars, cheap velvet, dusted with kilo bags glitter, ripped open in a frenzy of excitement, and carries the hopes and dreams of a million ridiculous and impractical creative projects.
My version of Narnia is fucking fabulous.
– Bonjela x
43 RICCCARTON ROAD