For the second in our new Resident Profile series, we head down to Holdrons Arcade and explore the menagerie on offer there and Room12a's role at the centre of this Rye Lane stalwart.

Tucked away just off Rye Lane is Holdrons Arcade, the hidden gem of the Copeland Park site. Dubbed ‘a corridor of wonders’ by The Londonist, Holdrons (in its current form) has served as a fertile breeding ground for start-up businesses for almost a decade – with Alice Newbold of Vogue declaring, ‘nothing beats Holdrons’.

Due to its role as an incubator for new ventures, Holdrons is made up of a changing carousel of residents. They bring with them character, stories, passion and above all a sense of community. The arcade consists of a narrow corridor with a series of small units on either side, almost stacking businesses on top of one another and creating strong ties between them.

L to R: Holdrons exterior, Holdrons Arcade during Peckham Festival 2022 by Yaneva Santana, Deserted Cactus in Holdrons Arcade

No one embodies this spirit more than Jerome Monahan of Room12a, an eclectic antique and vintage shop, where every item comes with a story. Room12a opened in March 2022 and at this time Jerome found a Holdrons Arcade that was very much still getting back on its feet after consecutive years of lockdowns and restrictions.

“I was new to Peckham at the time when a friend, Mark Farhall of Peckham Salvage Yard where I had sold antiques in the past, mentioned there were units available at the nearby Holdrons Arcade.”

Jerome had long wanted to open an antique shop of his own after being inspired from a young age by the vivid ghost stories of H. G. Wells and M. R. James and their depictions of magical shops filled with intriguing items. So he jumped at the chance to open his own version just off a busy high street.

“I love the energy of Rye Lane, it’s a real centre of business and so diverse both in terms of its multiculturalism but also in terms of all the items you can get your hands on.”

Even amongst the endless variety of Rye Lane, Room12a still carries its own sense of uniqueness. “People come in and are amazed that stuff like this still exists!” Holdrons is the perfect location for this time capsule – the arcade predates even H. G. Wells’s novels, first opening its doors as a department store in 1882 before falling out of favour during the Second World War and eventually shutting its doors as a shopping destination in the late 1940s.

Room12a during Peckham Festival 2022 by Yaneva Santana

Today the arcade plays host to cafes, jewellers, radio stations, book and record shops, health and beauty outlets and community groups with Jerome and Room12a at the heart of this current crop.

“The shop really benefits from the Holdrons ecosystem. Rons Coffee House is perfectly placed at the street front and does an excellent job of welcoming people into the wonderful selection of businesses housed here. We all play off one another – when one business hosts an event or party, everyone benefits from the extra footfall. And best of all they’re all very tolerant of my eccentricities and the space my wares can take up!”

Room12a is open Wednesday to Sunday each week and it is often on a Sunday when you can find Jerome at his most busy, filling in antique and collectible hunters on the back story to each piece. “The stories of the artists and pieces are the great thing – that’s what gets customers really engaged. Whether it’s work by my Ukrainian friend Andrei Bludov and the struggles he is facing in his homeland at the moment, or Mexican retablos by the late laminista master, Miguel Hernandez, providing background and context to each piece is my favourite part.”

Room12a won’t last forever though, with Jerome planning to auction off his stock when his wife retires in the next year. There are plenty of plans on the horizon until then, “I’m looking to collaborate with Rons to host film nights in the cafe, where I’ll pick some of my favourites and give a small introductory talk beforehand.”

Of course there are always new residents setting up shop in the arcade, so Jerome will be on hand to offer them a warm welcome to the neighbourhood as he always has done over his now two-year stint at Holdrons.

You can find Room12a in Units 8 & 10, Holdrons Arcade, Rye Lane and the shop is open 11:30am – 6pm Wednesday to Saturday and 11am – 5pm on Sundays.

Header image painted by Jimbino Vegan