Vid Kidz at Great Yarmouth Spectrum & Commodore tape games at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth Boxed NES games at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth Sega Dreamcast & Saturn games at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth Boxed Star Wars toys at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth Electronic tabletop games at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth 80's style 'Ghetto Blaster' at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth Arcade cabinets at Vid Kidz, Great Yarmouth Location of Vid Kidz, 2008

THE VID KIDZ EXPERIENCE

This is the article that just had to be written, in memory of coolest retro store in Norfolk. Sadly it has now gone but for the lucky few that entered it's doors, Vid Kidz was more than just a shop, it was an experience. So let me tell you a little story.

I'm sure that many of us that were kids back in the 80's and 90's can remember the feeling of walking into a video game store for the first time and getting that 'kid in a sweet shop' buzz. Eager eyes open wide and darting from shelf to shelf, taking in all the cool machines (hopefully) running the latest and greatest games as well as the rows of bright game covers seducing us with promises of new and exciting adventures or the latest version of the most popular arcade games. As adults we probably never felt that way again and the excitement is just a fading memory. But when I first walked into Vid Kidz, that is exactly how I felt.

I'm not sure how long it had been trading when we found out about this little gem on the Norfolk coast but we hadn't heard of it until 2006. It was Andy Cherry who first told us of Vid Kidz and it's owner, Paul Gilbert. Andy ran Norwich Space Station on St. Benedicts Street in Norwich and it was great little retro gaming shop that had an impressive collection of Star Wars figure on one wall and a large collection of videogames on the opposite. We had been discussing the small amount of retro game stores in Norwich and Andy asked if we had been to Vid Kidz. We had never heard of it so made it our mission to track down this place. We were warned that owner was a little, er, aloof, but we didn't care, if it didn't work out we could at least spend the rest of the day on Yarmouth sea front and check out the arcades (again).

So a few days later we jumped on the train for a quick journey to Great Yarmouth. We found the shop, eventually, and from the window we could tell that this was our sort of place. As we walked in we had our first surprise, there was a rope across the entrance. At first I thought it wasn't open yet (although it was mid-morning). There didn't seem to be anybody inside and I almost turned around and left but then a woman's voice asked (out of no-where) whether we needed help. I explained that we had come to see Paul and we were soon let in and told he was out in the other part of the store. As the rope parted, little did I know that we were entering a retro gaming nirvana.

As we walked through into the other part of the shop, we walked past rows of arcade machines and various games and books on shelves. Although it was quite dark as the main lights weren't on, I had the impression it was more like an arcade than a shop. And Paul had a serious amount of stuff crammed into this shop, yes, yes, yes. Wherever we looked there was something new (or old, if you like). It was floor to ceiling and even the ceiling had stuff hanging from it. We found Paul at the back of shop and he was pouring over some figures in a book. As we approached he gave us a quick look but seemed disinterested in us. We greeted and I explained who we were. As soon as he realised that we shared his passion, he opened up and we had a great chat. He suggested that we come back in a couple of days and he would show us the shop in 'full effect'. So after an hour or so we said our goodbyes and spent the rest of the afternoon on the seafront and the arcades.

Two days later we headed back and this time Paul enthusiastically greeted us. All the arcade machines were already on and now it really was like an arcade. It was still quite dark but he disappeared out the back and suddenly we were in the middle of a disco. Lights flashing and rotating, music booming out of speakers, and even a dry ice machine (which gave the place a futuristic sci-fi vibe). We asked if he would mind if we took some pictures and video. Thankfully Paul agreed so we spent a while doing a tour and getting some great images (as you can see) and I did a video compilation which you can view by using the link at the end of the article). We felt honoured to experience the place in such a different, well, light.

After finishing up our 'tourist' tasks we got our hands on the arcade machines. He had around 15 machines but the one I especially enjoyed was Gyruss. I had only ever played it on the Atari 8-bit so playing it's big brother was great fun. No free-play though. We finished the visit with a chat about the shop, arcades on the seafront, and his special parties (which we never attended, which was a pity). As it was pouring with rain, Paul kindly gave us a lift back to the train station. We were part of the club now!

The train journey back to Norwich was spent in a daze. We had just had the most amazing retro experience and one that equalled the old days back at One Step Beyond and the gaming sessions that me and Simon had had back in the late 80's. It was clear that Paul was incredibly passionate about the retro thing (not just games though, as he had other artifacts such as a Chopper bike, Tonka Toys, Star Wars figures (unopened), Tomytronic games, and even a big old 80's 'ghetto blaster'). It reminded me a little of an antique shop and you almost felt like everything in Vid Kidz had a story.

I went back one more time on my own about a year after our first visit. Paul eagerly presented his latest addition - a great looking Tron cabinet. This time I got some free credits and had a real blast on this classic machine. He then brought up a video on his laptop of the removal of the machine from the sellers garage. The poor thing had been squeezed into the garage with a tonne of other stuff around it and on top of it. Paul knew a guy who repaired machines at various arcades on the seafront, so what little work the Tron cabinet had required was done and it looked almost new. Unfortunately this would be last time I would see Paul and set foot inside Vid Kidz. We had exchanged a few emails and he had asked me if I was interested in joining him in a venture to start an arcade / roller-skating / cafe venue at the site beside the model village on the seafront. Unfortunately I didn't have any capital so turned the offer down (although it would have been interesting to see if we could pull it off). Then it went quiet.

I popped back to Yarmouth a couple of years later and went to where the shop was located but not only was it closed, but it had been turned into houses. The only sign that there had ever been a retro shop there was a cheeky space invader plaque on the side of house. Gone but not forgotten.

Paul had, at the time of our visit, asked us not to publish an article on our website or put any images or video onto social media sites. He was concerned with unwanted publicly, which although seemed a little strange at the time, we did honour. But we kept all our media and after putting the video on YouTube I found that Paul had also done a 'closing down' video. It consisted of the music from Halloween and had the light from his camera illuminating an otherwise dark shop as he walked around it. It was a bit sinister and a little sad but it was Paul all over. It was the opposite of my video, with bright lights and music, but I guess it was his way of saying goodbye to the place.

I've always wondered what had happened to all the stuff in the shop, the arcade machines must have been worth a fortunate, especially the cabaret version of Williams Stargate. I still do a Google search every now and then to see if a new game store has opened in Yarmouth or maybe a 'retro' arcade has appeared on the seafront, but so far he hasn't resurfaced. I guess it was finances that caused the place to close down in the first place and it would be hard to open a place like that now. It was really one of a kind.

Still I am so glad that we had the chance to visit Vid Kidz and meet Paul. The 'sweet shop' moment, like those of my childhood, have faded into memories.

If you are out there Paul, look me up, Norwich still does have some retro gamers!

 

Original article by Gaz - December 2014

 

The Vid Kidz Experience (remastered)

Download the MP4 version HERE (976mb) - Right click, then Save as