Shopkeeper Spotlight: Caro

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 its 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! Ive 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.

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              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 wasnt 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. Its an 18th Century building so we really had to think carefully about light.

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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. Its 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 its hard not to instinctively have an internal radar. However, trends arent at the forefront of our ethos at Caro. There are some great materials out there at the moment so Im 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 its 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!

 

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            How do you balance the online side of the business along with the bricks and mortar shop?  

Im 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.

             Whats 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.

 

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           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. Thats 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

www.carosomerset.com

          Photography by Emma Lewis and Mariell Lin Hansen

Stay Inspired

We’re firmly in the 'back to school' mindset here at 91 HQ - heads down and hard at work on our second issue, due out in November. As exciting as that is, the sheer volume of work (sometimes involving spreadsheets - argh!) can seriously dent our creative mojo...

So, we took a break from the desk and asked some of our favourite creatives what helps to keep them inspired, creative and motivated through the long to-do lists and late nights.

From hiking and Ella Fitzgerald to You Tube and cactus embroidered underwear - their answers are varied, eclectic, and pretty inspirational...

 

Kate Saunders, Blogger and Podcaster, A Playful Day

Photo: Kate Saunders

Photo: Kate Saunders

I live in one of the most mesmerising landscapes in the country- the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset. Whenever I can, I grab my camera and escape the cottage where I live and see where my feet take me. Sometimes I stay close to home, skirting around the fields and taking in the sheep, the harvest and the meadow of wild flowers. Sometimes I walk down to the bay and watch the waves roll in against the stones. Other times, I'll hike up across the cliffs. While reading, absorbing and learning from other Creatives has always been really helpful, without this total absence of any influence or digital stimulation, I find it hard to process all my ideas and dreams. Where I live gives me the cohesion I need to ground all those thoughts and potential projects. When I return home, I'm almost always ready to create!
 

Hayley Maker, co-owner of No Guts, No Glory, Exeter

Photo: Nathan and Hayley Maker

Photo: Nathan and Hayley Maker

            I'm inspired by so many things including...
Morning light falling on a new leaf that's slowly unfurling. The scent of seasonal change, walks by the sea (especially if they involve rock pools.) Other peoples homes and collections. Imagining life through my daughter's eyes, kaleidoscopes and sunbeams. Shutting things off and getting back to myself. Books and beautiful magazines that somehow magically synchronise with the day to day. Discovering a new illustrator. Flowers, and plants - in their curious forms. The coolness of clay. Inspiring talks and creative hubs, introducing something new to a friend that you know they will love... and... cactus embroidered underwear! 
 

Sally Coulthard, Designer and Author

Photo: 

Photo: 

When I first left university I worked in television for a few years.  It was great fun, often glamorous and decadent, but also really draining.  I never felt in control of my working day and I soon realised that, if I was going to be happy,  I needed to be in charge of my day and where my career was heading.  So, I quit TV and became an author.  It's been nearly 20 years now.  Writing is a great way to earn a living - it's endlessly creative, no two days are the same, and I'm always meeting new people and learning new things. The downside is that it can be a bit 'feast and famine' - one minute it's all quiet, the next there's too much to do - it's almost impossible to predict what the months ahead hold, so you have to be pretty flexible.  In those few moments when the craziness of it gets too much I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have so much freedom in what I do, and how brilliant it is that I can still work, live in the countryside and enjoy family life. That's my motivation.
 

Nicole Dodds, Baker, Afternoon Crumbs

Photo: Nicole Dodds

Photo: Nicole Dodds

Whether I’m decorating a never-ending number of biscuits, spending weeks making sugar flowers or layering a lot of cakes, I always need a little musical support. Turning up my favourite playlists (my Spotify ones are all named after sweet treats!) usually does the trick – I love listening to new tracks but a little bit of Ella Fitzgerald never fails to keep me calm and get me through. Sometimes, however, just remembering how great it is to see the expression on the recipient’s face is motivation enough.
 

Jen Carrington, Content Coach and Creative Mentor

Photo:  Sara Tasker
For me, I always feel the most motivated when I remember why I'm doing this and why I'm working so damn hard in my business. Staying focused on the life I'm building and why I believe in the work I do with my clients and how great it is to see them thrive throughout our time together, that keeps me going even when things may get a little overwhelming or tiring along the way. Oh, and if I really need to kick start inspiration, switching off for an afternoon and getting outside and living my life a little always does the trick!
 

Emma Block, Illustrator

Photo: Emma Block

Photo: Emma Block

I find that variety is what keeps work exciting. As well as working as a freelance illustrator I also teach watercolour and brush lettering and I do live illustration. I also run an Etsy shop. Doing something different every day keeps me inspired and interested.

Hazel Gibbens, Editor-in-Chief, Bedboat Magazine

Photo: Sara Giannitelli

Photo: Sara Giannitelli

The thing that keeps me inspired and motivated is being around people. Long chats with best friends about our futures, positive conversations with strangers about shared hobbies, and even watching YouTube blogs of creatives who I respect and who inspire me. People keep me going, and give me the reassurance that when I'm lost, drowning in deadlines, or feeling in a rut, that I'm not alone, and that I'm going to make it out the other side. 

Katherine Dorrington, Blogger, Foraged and Collected

Photo: Katherine Dorrington

Photo: Katherine Dorrington

I've been thinking a lot about inspiration lately. How it ebbs and flows at different points in our year and what to do when we are feeling creatively stagnant. We're just coming out of winter in Australia and the winter weather and reduced light has really affected my creativity. It's hard to stay inspired when you are working and it's dark by the time you get home. All I feel like is crawling into my pyjamas and watching Netflix. There have been points in the last few months where I've really challenged myself to overcome that feeling. The quickest way for me to find inspiration is to turn to the natural world; to get outside and photograph flowers, leaves, raindrops on bare branches, grasses in the wind. The act of picking up the camera and just shooting something works as an instant boost for me and reminds me how much I love to find beauty in simple things.