Shopkeeper Spotlight: Zabiela Store

Kat Booth’s concept store combines local makers with Scandi minimalism and Moroccan textures to create a unique destination in Sheffield’s Kelham Island.

With a background in visual merchandising it’s no surprise that Kat Booth’s own shop is a visual delight. A gallery-like flow to the shop is provided by small plaques that tell the stories of the carefully-curated products, and the warmth and brightness of Zabiela Store is incredibly inviting. ‘I spent years working with companies like The White Company, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, and always wanted to be able to work for myself,’ explains Kat. ‘Here I can change the aesthetics as often as I’d like, and this gives me the freedom to promote sustainable brands and makers I like as I come across them.’ Independent makers of jewellery, ceramics and handmade clothing all receive their own space in Zabiela Store, alongside Moroccan textiles chosen by Kat herself, and gifts and art made within the local community.  

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Zabiela opened in December 2017, after Kat and her husband had spent more than 18 months travelling the world and had then settled in her husband’s home town of Sheffield. Kelham Island, where the shop and the couple's home is located, is an area of Sheffield that has seen huge redevelopment over the past few years. ‘Kelham Island was traditionally a manufacturing area and is kind of its own pocket within the city centre,’ Kat reminisces. ‘It once even had a reputation as a red-light district but has undergone a massive redevelopment in recent years, with sustainable housing and independent coffee shops, a monthly food market event, pop-up shops, a steelworks museum- it’s now a vibrant, indie area.’ Crucially, the area is still affordable, allowing Kat to open her small business in what is a somewhat weekend destination; ‘I only open Fridays to Sundays as Sheffield still isn’t known as a big shopping destination,’ adds Kat.  

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The weekend hours suit Kat, who’s just welcomed her first child to the family, and she loves to see members of the community come back again and again for special ceramics or a unique card. ‘Because I come from a retail background, I was expecting a faster pace of stock rotation,’ Kat admits, ‘but the opposite has happened- I’ve maintained a slower pace.’ Like many indie shopkeepers, Kat has embraced the slow living movement and has selected her stock from around her local area to encourage customers to choose carefully when shopping. ‘When I’m buying and picking products I ask myself “would I choose this?”’, continues Kat. ‘I’m keen on promoting sustainable brands, ethical products and local makers.’ Her inspiration came from her travels, where Kat and her husband fell in love with boutiques in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Bali, but it’s the heady souks of Morocco that keeps Zabiela Store’s stock interesting. ‘I spent a lot of time talking to souk owners and building relationships with their stockists, and last year we visited the manufacturers of beautiful Moroccan rugs,’ remembers Kat, ‘We’re now firm family friends with one seller, and we visit him to choose the stock ourselves regularly.’ Although the Moroccan textiles aren’t from a UK maker, they tell a story and aren’t incongruous with the Scandi minimalism elsewhere in the store.  

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Many of the makers who sell their beautiful wares at Zabiela are close friends of Kat, and local to the area. ‘Beth Pegler, who makes striking rope jewellery lives in the most creative and beautiful home and I’m so glad I accidentally found her!’ Kat enthuses. The Kelham Candle Co handmade candles sell out instantly, thanks to their ultra-local vibe, and Kim from Alchemy and Aura makes her natural beauty products in the city, too. The striped baby jumpers are expertly hand-knitted by Kat’s grandmother, after whom the shop is named (‘she’s the neatest knitter ever!’) and most of the art is produced either locally in Yorkshire- such as Kat’s close friend, printmaker Ali Nazari- within the UK. ‘Another sustainable edge to the shop that I’ve introduced recently is carefully selected second-hand clothing,’ says Kat. ‘It was an experiment at first, but I’ve found I’m struggling to keep up with demand!’ she laughs. Kat finds good-quality clothing in a limited palette from favourite quality brands and makes sure they’re in excellent condition and fully cleaned before selling them on to ‘offer the opportunity for people to own their favourite brands without having to trawl the throwaway high street or eBay.’  

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With a relaxed stock changeover and small, community feel, Zabiela has established itself as a creative boutique in an independent area. Kat’s eye for local design and enthusiasm for products with providence has created a gallery of beautiful things, suitable for any home- or wardrobe.  

Zabiela Store, 20-22 Burton Road, Sheffield; see Instagram @zabiela_store for opening hours. 

Photos: Helena Dolby