This month our Shopkeeper Spotlight focuses on Caro, in Bruton, Somerset. We speak to owner Natalie Jones about the ethos behind her multi-faceted business, shopping trips to Paris and the importance of a little everyday luxury...
How would you describe the essence of Caro?
The Pursuit of Everyday Pleasure
Your background is in the creative industries - was opening a shop always part of the plan?
Not completely. But I've always loved the idea of extending and opening my home to others whether it’s to enjoy something tasty or share ideas… it turned out to be Caro!
Can you tell us a bit more about how Caro came about?
The idea for Caro was formed during my many train journeys from London to Somerset when my boyfriend (now husband) Tom and I were doing the long distance thing. I'd get out of work on a Friday and rush like a mad woman to get to Somerset at a reasonable time. We both decided I was going to move to Somerset but what I'd do when I got here was quite another matter! I had plenty of thinking time on those long train journeys, and the idea of being a shopkeeper would always pop into my head. It was a pretty insistent thought, and soon it felt like the only thing to do. We tried to buy The Old Post Office, but the sale fell through. There are only a few buildings which have a shop front in Bruton, so when our building came up I jumped at the chance at put in an offer. Tom is a teacher, and was away on a school trip at the time, so I offered without him even knowing! The offer was accepted, we had our building and we haven't looked back since!
Caro is many things, shop, coffee bar, design service and B&B. Why was it important to you to bring these elements together? How do they influence one another, did one element come first and others follow?
We started with the shop and coffee house, because they were the most viable channels to open first. As a newcomer to Bruton, I wanted to get meeting the locals quickly so offering a good coffee was a great way to do it! I’ve always wanted to have a B&B - I love the treat of staying away so much myself - so I knew it was the natural progression. I feel that each of the elements work together; they all have a common Caro 'theme' of celebrating and enjoying the everyday luxuries in life.
You stock a range of designers and makers. How do you go about sourcing new products?
I am constantly looking for creative pieces, whether it's a way of serving coffee or a beautifully made utensil. I'm always chatting to people and visiting new places on the lookout for craftspeople. I'm lucky that so many talented artists visit Caro and show me their work. I've recently found Sue Pryke's work, which I love, and we'll hopefully have her ware in-store soon. I also go to Maison & Objet trade fair every September. It's a great excuse for a weekend in Paris and a chance for me to head to Merci Merci for some shopping!
Caro's interior has a lovely calm, clean aesthetic. What were you aiming to create when designing the space?
Thank you! We wanted a contemporary space but one that wasn’t intimidating. We split it into 2 areas; firstly, an area for perusing the shelves which mixes traditional flagstones with more modern metalwork, ply and marmoleum and a second area for relaxing. This part of the space uses dusty tones and natural materials. It’s an 18th Century building so we really had to think carefully about light.
Bruton has become something of a creative hub over the last few years – is that important to your work?
Absolutely. I have met so many fascinating people here in Bruton. It’s a privilege to have such creative diversity in our surroundings.
How influenced are you by trends in terms of what you stock and in your interior design work?
I used to work in trend forecasting, so it’s hard not to instinctively have an internal radar. However, trends aren’t at the forefront of our ethos at Caro. There are some great materials out there at the moment so I’m enjoying combining intrinsic objects with the occasional print or surface-design.
What are your current bestsellers? Any personal favourites?
Stationery is always a winner - people always love new desktop items. I also love our Variopinte enamelware, I think it’s the perfect set to modernise your tableware.
You've mentioned how important everyday luxury is to the ethos behind Caro - what do you consider to be your own everyday luxuries?
Not having to commute every day is a real luxury - London is the pits for that! Another everyday luxury would be putting on lovely perfume every morning; at the moment I'm loving the new scent 'Atlas' from Laboratory Perfumes. It's gorgeous and we're about to start stocking it in the shop!
How do you balance the online side of the business along with the bricks and mortar shop?
I’m more of a bricks & mortar kind of girl so I tend to put my efforts into what I can see and feel. It may not be the most savvy approach, but it’s really important for me to do the thing I love.
What’s next on the horizon for Caro?
We have lots of things on the horizon, including some creative workshops in-store which we're really looking forward to hosting. Previously we've hosted a candle making course with Evermore London, talking through the different types of wax you can use in candle making, as well an overview of essential oils and how to create a bespoke fragrance for your own candle. The Bakemonger - our resident baker, has hosted a variety of workshops, including an Edible Wreath class at Christmas and a Cake Topping class. Coming up, we have Modern Calligraphy with luxury stationers A-laise and a Wool and the Gang workshop for all those wanting to knit a woolly hat this winter... We also have a selection of pop-up brands coming to our Parlour room - can't wait to welcome some new brands - and some beautiful Japanese coffee equipment coming our way too.
What are the best and most challenging elements of running an independent shop?
The best part of my job is the commute - I walk down the stairs - and having creative autonomy, of course! The most challenging element of running a shop is balancing the budget and making sure you spend where you need to. That’s tough for me as I want to do everything.
Finally, any advice for aspiring indie shop-owners…?
Don’t kid yourself! About anything. Don’t kid yourself about what you’re good at, who your customer is or when you need help. But mostly, enjoy the journey.
Caro, 9 Quaperlake Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0HF
Photography by Emma Lewis and Mariell Lin Hansen