A CARD SHOP WITH HEART
My name is Natalie Banyard and I am a cardaholic. I can spend days, weeks, even months looking for the right card for the right person. I am renowned for it. So it is infuriating – upsetting, in fact – that good, independent card shops are so thin on the ground in Bristol.
I can count on one hand the number of quality card shops in the whole city, and they are all but non-existent in The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Cabot Circus and Broadmead.
In my quest for the perfect card, I seem to endlessly rummage through many of the chain stores' generic ranges of greetings cards featuring insipid bears, brash cartoon characters and humourless humour cards in the hope that there will be a little gem hidden away.
I have resorted to dragging my husband (who can't appreciate that a card is not "just a card") on lengthy card-based field trips or to ordering online, which doesn't afford the tactile pleasure of an in-store purchase.
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There are, however, a couple of saving graces, and one of those is Cardiac in Bedminster.
Opened by Paul Wick in 2006, Cardiac is on Bedminster's bustling North Street, which boasts a diverse range of food shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, charity shops and hairdressers.
The shop sells a diverse range of cards, as well as old fashioned sweets in jars, a variety of gifts, from books and diaries to mugs and flasks, and a lovely selection of jewellery.
"I'm always surprised that there are so few good card shops in Bristol because there's obviously the demand for them," Paul tells me.
"I was already trading a small selection of cards on North Street, but I decided to expand and open Cardiac seven years ago because people were telling me that they were going out of the area in order to find good quality, original cards.
"I definitely wanted to stay on North Street – it's a great place for independent shops and we've since built up a great customer base.
"We have our regulars as well as people who stumble across us, and we boast a really varied clientele because all of us have people in our lives that we want to buy that extra special card for."
There's plenty to choose from in this veritable Aladdin's cave. At the back of the store, there's a large section devoted to the brightly coloured, fun and kitsch Dean Morris cards, many of which appeal to those with a racy sense of humour. Cardiac also stocks the sought-after Caroline Gardner range, with its instantly recognisable pretty, stylish design.
In addition to the better known ranges, Cardiac also supports local designers.
Paul keeps his eye out for new and emerging talent and currently devotes much wall space to two Bristol-based designers, Helen Evens and Mark Barber.
Helen, who lives and works in Bedminster, produces Cardtastic cards, which are small, contemporary photographic greeting cards left blank inside for your personal message.
Mark's Courgette Cards are fun and quirky, featuring 36 assembled photographic images of different collections, from thimbles and teapots to marbles and spacehoppers. Mark is based in Totterdown.
Both collections are proving extremely popular. "I think that's our biggest appeal," Paul tells me. "Most of our cards aren't available in chain stores and we stock cards from local artists. In fact, we've been a springboard for a couple of really good local designers."
Cardiac offers cards for all ages and occasions, from christenings, engagements and weddings to get well and sympathy messages.
And, with February 14 looming, the shop offers a wide range of Valentine's cards from the very traditional to the contemporary, fun and stylish.
Paul concludes: "Whatever your taste, I think we have something here to suit.
"I'd say that, if you don't know it, come and have a look around Cardiac and North Street – I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."
Cardiac 253, North Street, Bedminster, BS3 1JN.