Afflecks Palace takes its name from the old department store Affleck & Brown. It was originally the brainchild of former Manchester hairdresser James Walsh, and Elaine Williams an art graduate.
They were an eccentric yet endearing couple, who were still living the great ideology of the hippie attitude but with a commercial take. They originally rented a basement near Kendals with units selling mainly antique jewellery, clothing and knick knacks, but the demand for stalls propelled them into looking for larger premises.
So in 1981 they moved to Church Street and, operating a system where tenants could rent stalls on a weekly basis, encouraged entrepreneurs to open shops in a safe, affordable environment without having to sign a long term contract. The chilled out atmosphere and labyrinth like layout led to Afflecks becoming a mecca for alternative culture. Attracting visitors from all over the UK it was the North's version of Camden Market and the only place to get original vintage clothing. The fun was in having to rummage around for something you wouldn't see anyone else wearing. It was the home to the original Red or Dead shop, Fat City records and Cafe Pop, all of which moved on to bigger premises and in some cases international fame. It was certainly the starting point for some of the biggest entrepreneurs and even created a few millionaires!
Both Elaine and James remained devoted to Afflecks Palace throughout their 25 years there and stayed fiercely independent. Even two major fires couldn't defeat them and they overcame many other obstacles such as unreasonable rent increases by the landlord. James and Elaine shied away from the lime light preferring to let Afflecks be the star, sadly this has led to their hard work and dedication going largely undocumented.
After the expiry of it's 25 year lease in June 2007, Afflecks Palace finally ceased trading on 31 March 2008, following several months of negotiations between Elaine Walsh and building owner Bruntwood concerning the future of the building. It re-opened on 1 April 2008 as 'Afflecks' under new management. It had been previously suggested that Bruntwood would redevelop the building, possibly leading to its closure as a market but they realised how important it was to the city. Following the change in management a representative of the property developer is quoted to have said 'Never in our 30 year history have we bought one of our customers' businesses but Afflecks is a Manchester icon that we wanted to protect'.
Oldham Street, Afflecks Arcade
Identity, Manchester England