Why Sofa So Good is so good

By James MortlockGIANT supermarkets and chain stores may be taking control in the average high street, but the squeezed independents still have a few aces to play.

By James Mortlock

GIANT supermarkets and chain stores may be taking control in the average high street, but the squeezed independents still have a few aces to play.

As a new book published today reveals, a sense of humour is one of the things that has become a trump card for many of the smaller shops and business up and down the country.

Shop Horror is the ultimate guide to almost 200 of the wittiest, and sometimes most groan-inducing, shop names in the UK - with East Anglia, particularly Suffolk, featuring especially prominently in the pun-based title stakes.


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The county boasts the Grin n Wear It Tattoo parlour in Lakenheath, the Tanzmania tanning studio in Mildenhall and Lifecycles bike shop in Lowestoft, only a few doors down from a bakery named A Piece of Cake.

But top of the pops in East Anglia for author of the book, Guy Swillingham, is the Bury St Edmunds furniture shop Sofa So Good in the town's Southgate Street.

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Mr Swillingham said the inspiration for his book - subtitled The Best and Worst in British Shop Names - came from a simple premise. "There comes a point when things get so bad they're actually good," he explained.

"So, when it comes to naming shops in High Street Britain, there is nothing as bad - and therefore as good - as a pun-based name.

"Shop Horror shows our nation of shopkeepers as you've never seen it before. The book celebrates the quirky British habit of giving pun-based names to shops - the witty, risqué, silly and clever businesses that bring a touch of humour to our streets.

"There is also a more serious side. In these times of out-of-town supermarkets and international chains in our high streets, it is important to celebrate the individuality of the independent shopkeeper."

Richard Bennett, who owns Sofa So Good with his partner Phil Inniss, said he was delighted the store had won the accolade of heading Mr Swillingham's East Anglia top 10. "It's great - it might even help us shift a few sofas," he added.

Mr Bennett admitted the shop's name had been "plucked out of thin air" as the pair had taken a delivery of sofas from Italy when setting up shop in 2002.

"We were just sitting around and someone said 'Well, so far so good', and someone else suggested we use that as a title and Sofa So Good was born," he said.

"But we weren't the first to think of it. Because we are a limited company we had to register and make sure the name wasn't in use. It wasn't, but it had been some years before in London."

Mr Bennett believed the individuality of the name, which has provoked considerable mirth, had helped the business to succeed.

Mr Swillingham, who has travelled 4,000 miles and visited 340 towns and cities for the book, also interviewed the shopkeepers in an effort to find the reasoning - or madness - behind their amusing names.

His personal favourites include the Frying Scotsman fish and chip shop, the Abra Kebabra takeaway and The Vinyl Resting Place second-hand record store.

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

EAST ANGLIA'S FUNNIEST SHOP NAMES

1 Sofa So Good, furniture, Bury St Edmunds

2 Grin n Wear It, tattoos, Lakenheath

3 Light Fantastic, lighting, St Neots

4 Omnipresents, gifts, Norwich

5 Wokaholic, Chinese takeaway, Norwich

6 Lifecycles, bicycles, Lowestoft

7 Oops A Daisy, florists, Drayton

8 A Piece of Cake, baker, Lowestoft

9 Tanzmania, tanning salon, Mildenhall

10 Narscissors, hairdresser, Peterborough

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