About Guru Boutique

Guru Boutique is a way of life, maintained with love by a collection of family and friends.  Perhaps the reason that Guru has lasted since 1972 is because we are more than just a business, we hope we also have the human touch.

Guru stocks fair trade and alternative clothing, accessories, incense, crystals, gifts, blank cards, greetings cards, books and more. If these things appeal to you please feel free to browse our treasures and perhaps also explore our social media sites too.

Guru's main social media sites are a Facebook page Guru Boutique and also a quite popular selling group on Facebook called Guru's Goodies and Guru's Cards  It might be good to check that group out as it is where we often offer one-off bargains and ends of lines. Guru Boutique also posts on Instagram, X and Pinterest. In addition to that Guru's Beryl writes a blog which you can read at www.guruboutique.com

HISTORY (1970s to the present time).

For those who may be interested the following is a brief history of Guru Boutique, which had it's humble beginnings way back in 1971.

It wasn't called Guru Boutique back then, however, it was called Quaker Girl and if you include that rather shaky start, then up to the present day there have been four major stages in the evolution of this special little shop, spanning just over four decades.

Stage one:

Quaker Girl. This was an early attempt to bring something different to Darlington but back then no-one involved could have dreamt what it would eventually lead to.

Inspired by trips made by myself (Beryl) and my husband (Ray Hankin), down to London's Kensington Market and Carnaby Street in 1969 to buy stage clothes and equipment for a blues rock band we were involved with, my mam and dad (Irene and Rupert Maughan) opened what must surely have been the town's first alternative shop. The shop was called Quaker Girl and occupied premises in the town's North Road.

That was on the cusp of 1969 and 1970 and significantly 1970 was also the year that myself, Ray and members of the group (Mother's Lament) attended The Isle of Wight pop festival. If ever I get round to writing that book about Guru that I have in my head and if ever you get to read it, you will discover why that date is significant .

Anyway, for various reasons, (partly because it was in the wrong location and probably had the wrong name too), the business failed and my Dad lost interest. 

Stage two:

This stage of Guru's evolution began In 1972 when my mam and I, due to being between jobs, decided to try again, but this time just the two of us (mother and daughter) were involved.  We called our shop Guru Unisex Boutique back then (well it was the 1970s after all). The location of the shop was a tiny kiosk in a run-down arcade in the actual town centre. As well as being very small the unit was also very cheap and could be rented on a week by week basis. That latter fact suited us very well as we had no capital behind us and it allowed us to try our luck as a small business without having to put down a deposit or pay rent and rates up front. It was a sort of pay as you go arrangement with the very decent landlord, Mr Haithwaite. I think the actual arrangement was, "if ever you can't pay, you go", which was fair enough. We had a few items left over from Quaker Girl and we used those to stock the unit to start with. Resourceful Irene also persuaded an Indian gentleman in Bradford called Matti Mir whose name she had found in a trade magazine (The Draper's Record), to supply them with some cheesecloth kurtas and shirts plus some gift items and a lovely range of embroidered velvet clothes with little mirrors sewn into them, on a sale or return basis. These items proved to be very popular so this time, by some miracle, IT WORKED and we were surprised at the large number of alternative souls in the town who found their way to Court Arcade in order to visit us as we bumbled along trying to learn how to run a business. People seemed to like what we were doing and the word spread attracting more and more customers (including many from out of town), so we were able to buy more and more varied stock (including two of the most iconic symbols of those times, Afghan coats and loon pants).

Quite early on in our adventure a young man of about nineteen who was based in Newcastle Upon Tyne found us and also began to supply Guru too. His name was Jiti Varma. He had real flair and sold us some beautiful but reasonably priced items of Indian cotton and cheesecloth clothing, which helped enormously.

He went on to open his own very respected fashion showrooms in Manchester. We Gurus have remained friends with Jiti to this day and hold him in the highest regard. In fact we keep in contact with several reps and agents from companies who we first got to know back in the Court Arcade days. Some notable suppliers over the years have been Interstyle, Phool Fashions, Fashion Pirate, Athena Posters, Poco Loco jewellery, Alchemy Gothic, et al.

These early suppliers, customers and friends of ours deserve a medal as wthout them we could not have gone on. Guru's long suffering accountants deserve a medal too as we have always found book keeping challenging to say the least.

The images below were snapped in the 1970s/1980s and show two of the units Guru went on to rent in Court Arcade plus Irene, Beryl and Tony behind the till. 


 What follows is a short history of Court Arcade itself, that tumbledown yet in many ways iconic and much missed location that Guru Boutique occupied for so many years. That place had once been the site of the beautiful old Court Kinema which sadly burnt down many years ago. The facade of the old cinema survived, so in the 1960s the space behind it was rebuilt as a sort of long shed filled with separate retail units which eventually became the legendary Court Arcade. It may have been shabby and would never have passed any building safety regs these days with it's concrete flooring and asbestos lined ceilings and leaky roof, but the atmosphere in there was second to none. It was Darlington's very own alternative place to hang out and the mix of shops on offer was truly amazing. For example at various times whilst the Gurus were trading there,  they shared the place with Hunt Brothers (auctioneers), several record stores, a sewing machine repairers, an American style diner, a Spencers trousers outlet, an American clothing shop, a comic shop, a retro clothing shop, Darlington's first Oxfam shop, a trendy boutique or two, a magic shop (Ludi's Madhouse run by their amazing friend Steve), a pet shop, Cotters, a lovely jewellers (the proprietors of which Beryl is still in contact with), at least two gift shops, a wool shop run by the lovely Mrs Batey, even a religious shop belonging to The Elim Church. Part of the upper facade and a widow of this former cinema then iconic arcade is still there to this day and is visible above The Speedy Pepper Pizza place in Skinnergate, but as stated earlier, the cinema itself burnt down long ago.  In the early 1990s the shopping arcade which had taken its place fell into serious disrepair and was finally demolished to make way for some sheltered housing known as Arcadia Court, which now stands on the site.

To this very day Court Arcade is remembered fondly by those who used to work there, shop there and hang out there in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

There are so many stories connected with both the Arcade and our Blackwellgate days that we could fill several books with accounts of those memories and one day we just might find time to do so. Beryl and two imaginative friends have already published two books of short fictional stories set in the Blackwellgate building that Guru occupied after leaving Court Arcade, and we have aso published a collection of memories about how the town used to be prior to 2007 when the High Row area underwent a massively disruptive change that almost saw us off, and these are available on Guru's website under books.


Stage three:

This was when in 1990 Guru Boutique moved from Court Arcade (the entrance to which is depicted in the photo on the left above) to number 24 Blackwellgate, Darlington (which is captured in the right hand side images above). The Blackwellgate shop is where the BUZZ TV INTERVIEW shown below, was filmed).


Stage four:

The fourth (and current) stage of Guru's evolution is our online business. It is a secure website set up for us by our friends Darby and Terry in 2023.

We hope you will enjoy browsing it and discovering treasures, items to wear and/or interesting bits and bobs to purchase from it.

OUR TRIBE: As lovely and magical as Guru Boutique (the business) is, there's another side to us too, and that is our beloved Guru Tribe.

Our 'tribe' has nothing at all to do with trading it is simply a collection of some of the lovely and varied friends we have built up over the many years we have been a presence in our town.

In order to keep in touch with those friends our tribe has its own separate little group on Facebook known as 'Guru Tribe Forever' and you are very welcome to join our little tribe if you feel inclined. We don't try to sell anyone anything on there, we don't talk politics, we don't moan or groan, we just hang out. It's a place to have a natter, talk music or just have a laugh and feel like you belong.

We think those things are especially important now that we no longer have our physical premises and face to face contact with all of our friends. We just wish that it could include some of those we have lost touch with since leaving the physical shop who aren't on social media, but we will never forget them all.

Over the years we've been lucky enough to meet up with (and in some cases work alongside), some fabulous people. Many of these people have become our lifelong friends. On several occasions we have even employed people from the same lovely families. In fact that's what Guru Tribe is, a sort of family comprising of the almost infinite variety of people we have been fortunate enough to get to know due to having our shop. 

The following just about sums up the Spirit of Guru. 

Individuality, flair, free thinking, unfettered imagination, appreciation of variety, tolerance of difference, sense of responsibility, lots of laughs, a capacity for love and friendship, kindness and a positive slant on life - in our opinion that's what it's all about. 


GURU BOUTIQUE IS STILL EVOLVING... Who knows what will happen next but we can hardly wait to find out.

OUR ETHOS: We strive to give a friendly efficient service to our customers and offer them desirable, interesting and ethically sourced goods at prices that are as affordable as possible.

That's just our excuse to properly connect on a human level with other people in all their mind boggling variety, of course... 


GURU'S CURRENT STAFF: L to R: Tony, Beryl and Colin.   

                             These three lunatics are each others very best friends!


                                                     Photo credit: Mike Tweddle 2023 

Credits related to the creation of this site include Heather, Kelly, Chris, Courtney, Maria, Ian, Rosie, Tracy, Robyn, Dave, Ellie, Terry, Darby, Kendall and all our beloved Guru girls and boys - for giving us the benefit of their help, love, friendship and in some cases expertise.