Shopkeeper Spotlight: Future and Found

We chat to Andrea Bates, founder of Future and Found, a design destination and concept store in Tufnell Park, North London.

How would you describe the essence of Future and Found?

Helping people to create relaxed modern homes they love to live in and which reflect their personality. We do all the leg work curating a cohesive collection from some of the best brands and makers out there along with an increasing number of our own brand pieces. Our relaxed approach means our collection is design led and aspirational yet equally understated and unpretentious. So when a customer or client comes to us they feel confident and relaxed in our environment and decision making should be a pleasure.

We're based in a converted factory building, a stones throw from Tufnell Park station in North London. The ground floor houses our lifestyle and interiors concept store, centred around an outdoor courtyard serving coffee. Above the store is our interior design studio and workshop space. So we’re really trying to create a mini design destination for like minded people to enjoy.  

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Tell us a bit about how Future and Found came about...

I was a retail buyer for many years working for brands such as Heal’s, Jamie Oliver and Paperchase. So I was lucky enough to travel the world finding amazing products and the people who make and design them.

I launched Future and Found in 2012 with an embarrassingly bad website and a small shop unit selling just accessories. I felt really passionate about independent retail and excited about bringing new products to market quickly. Since then we’ve moved to a bigger space, upgraded the website, grown a team of lovely and talented people and gained lots of gorgeous customers.  

Can you talk us through your buying decisions - do you have a wish list for new stock or is it a more organic process?

A bit of both to be honest… We do have a bit of a wish list which comes from how we’d like to see the range grow but also in response to customer requests and feedback. Then equally we spot things which we know are perfect for us, which we totally weren’t expecting, and just have to order them. That’s the beauty about being an independent… you can be fast to market and a little spontaneous. We’re super excited to be working on our own brand collection at the moment. The first lines will be on sale from this autumn (fingers and toes crossed!)

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How do you source your products?

As a buyer years ago, I'd rely on trade fairs to build our range and find new brands / products. Things have changed massively since then and often you have had visibility of products before it hits a trade fair via social media and blogs. So we have to scour online a lot more than we did – Instagram is a firm favourite.

Any favourite products? What are you current bestsellers?

Our best selling products include Playtype mugs, Tallow candles and Kaleido trays by HAY. But furniture and lighting is becoming a bigger part of our sale mix every month as our selection - and customer loyalty - grows.

How did you go about designing the Future and Found shop?

We’re very lucky to be located in an old factory building set in a courtyard off the main road. So it’s a great environment to be in. We really let the architecture and style of the building lead us as it was already so perfect for our brand. Clean, simple and unpretentious.

How do you balance a bricks and mortar shop and an online store? Is having a ‘real’ shop important to you?

Very. I certainly wouldn’t be so passionate about our business without the bricks and mortar store. Our curation comes to life and we get to play with displays and mixing things as well as getting such great feedback from customers which we learn from every day. Also, having a bricks and mortar I think gives people confidence making big ticket purchases from us as they know they can reach a real person and see things in the flesh.

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You also run an interior design service and a variety of workshops in-store - was that always the plan when setting up Future and Found? 

We feel it’s a natural extension to the store and our customer service. We like offering something over and above the norm. If someone is going to spend thousands with you on a sofa then need you to fill them with confidence on their selection and how their space is going to look and feel – that’s what our interior service aims to do. It's practical, down to earth, approachable and most importantly, fun.

In terms of workshops, that's been something of an organic process. We get approached by people once they’ve seen our lovely space. Increasingly, we also approach people ourselves - anyone who we feel would be a great fit for our demographic and customer base. Our workshops are always really relaxed and I like to think people walk away feeling like they’ve learnt or achieved something. It feels very complementary to our brand personality.

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How do you approach marketing? 

Instagram is the most valuable social media tool for us currently. We try to reflect our personality as well as showcase our great range of product. Stories are a great way to get new product deliveries and our store environment out there and give an insight into our day.

But we also do a lot of scouring and sourcing using Instagram now – it’s a great way of finding out about brands, stylists, stores, exhibitions.

What are the challenges of running an independent store?

It’s tough to stay focused on the bigger picture and the future development of the business as we’re a small team. The day to day operational running of the space and the store can easily take over. So each week I’m trying to set aside more and more time to work on our brand development – both in terms of product and branding.

And the best bits?

Working with gorgeous product and the best customers ever!

Any advice for aspiring indie store owners?

Be really focused on your vision. There is so much great stuff out there to select from and people are full of suggestions – so stay clear on what’s right or wrong for your brand. It’s very easy to lose the clarity of the offer in store. Also be prepared to become a bit of a jack of all trades and master multi-tasker.

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What’s on the horizon for Future and Found?

We recently expanded our store space and opened a new lifestyle section. So at the moment we’re refreshing the furniture and interiors space as the collection grows. We’re so lucky to have such a beautiful space to work with.

Next on the list is getting our courtyard summer ready – lots of new furniture, pots and plants will be available to buy or customers can simply enjoy them over a cup of iced tea in the sunshine. Then this autumn, you’ll see the first of our very own brand product creeping into the range which we’re super excited about. It's going to be a busy year! 

Future and Found, 225A Brecknock Road, Tufnell Park, London, N19 5AA

www.futureandfound.com


 

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Industry & Co

In the second of our series in collaboration with The Shopkeepers, we visit Industry & Co in Dublin, Ireland.

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Vanessa’s first shop was a tiny space in Dublin’s Temple Bar. To help with the business side of Industry she enlisted her brother, Marcus, a tech entrepreneur living in London. Within a year, based on customer response and sales, Vanessa knew her concept was working. She started looking for a larger space in a more accessible location.

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Two years ago she found the perfect space in a building on Drury Street and Marcus moved back to Dublin to work alongside Vanessa. In her role as Creative Director, Vanessa has filled Industry with timeless vintage pieces and new product she sources from India, France, Scandinavia, Japan, the US as well as Ireland. She is a proponent of mixing vintage pieces with modern furniture to create more interesting rooms and interior stories.

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Industrial design tends to be masculine so she uses textiles and glass to soften the look. Room sets are displayed throughout the shop to enable customers to easily imagine how the furniture will look at home. A best seller is the lighting and Vanessa has created a clever display for customers to shop. Marcus and Vanessa always wanted food to be part of their lifestyle concept for Industry.

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When Marcus joined Vanessa full-time as Managing Director of Industry he was able to develop the food side of the business, which launched five months ago. Vanessa and Marcus believe people eat with their eyes first and have created a visually enticing food display. The food also has to taste great and they borrowed influences from Marcus’ French Moroccan wife, Kadija. Healthy Irish ingredients are combined with subtle flavours from the Middle East. Offering food has introduced a new dynamic to Industry, customers can drop in on a regular basis for a delicious coffee or lunch as well as visit when looking for larger furniture purchases.

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Vanessa and Marcus have created a wonderful experience for their customers, and have plans to expand the floor space as they continue to develop and expand the food Industry offers.

Industry, 41 a/b Drury Street, Dublin 2

Shopkeeper Spotlight: The Old Haberdashery

This month we talk flea markets and vintage finds with Sonia Boriczewski, the creative force behind The Old Haberdashery, in Ticehurst, East Sussex.

How would you describe the essence of The Old Haberdashery?

A shop of ideas that plays with texture and colour; nostalgia and practicality. Everything we sell at the shop is useful and curated in a way that people still have to search for their own treasure. We also pride ourselves on remaining affordable.

Can you tell us some more about how The Old Haberdashery came about?

My background is in Textile Design and a few years ago I had a small studio space producing knitted paper yarn accessories, some of which are held in The Crafts Council permanent collection. I then left the UK and spent some time living in China - where I taught a course on Textile and Fashion history - and Spain. When I came back to the UK nine years later, with two children in tow, I really felt the need to reassert my creativity in some shape or form, but with childcare to think about I had to start small, so I started selling vintage homewares at local fairs. That went well so I rented a space in a vintage shop, but soon realised that I needed my own space in which to create and curate my vision.

The turning point was when a local businessman who had a tiny shop up for rent in the East Sussex village of Ticehurst approached me. It was just the push I needed. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't give it a try. 

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The Old Haberdashery specialises in vintage pieces - how do you go about sourcing wares for the shop?

The process of sourcing for the shop has changed over time. A lot of my regular haunts just don’t have the stock anymore, so I tend to keep quiet about the ones I really rely on - apologies for not sharing any insider secrets there! Ardingly Antiques Fair and Malvern Flea are excellent places to find new stock, and I never miss a boot fair.

Any tips on buying at flea markets?

Get rummaging - sometimes those tatty old cardboard boxes lined up in rows bear the best treasure. Build-up a rapport with traders; many will often keep particular things aside for you or keep an eye out for things you buy frequently. And finally, politeness and a smile still go a long way when negotiating a good price.

Do you have a personal favourite era in terms of homewares?

Absolutely. I’m a 1920s/30s girl. I love the shapes and colours of China from that era and the emergence of modernism in textile design. On my days off you will find me visiting places like nearby Charleston Farmhouse for inspiration from that period.

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Do you find yourself keeping some of your stock for your own home? Or are you quite disciplined about buying for the shop only?

I have trained myself well! If it is something I know I will never find again then occasionally an item may come home with me. Basically, you have to be business minded; those extra special things will keep people coming back to your shop.

Ticehurst is a beautiful spot – how did you come to find it? Do you find the setting influences what you stock?

It sort of chose me. I was looking at a shop in a neighbouring village but it didn’t work out and my current space was offered to me. I’m incredibly lucky in that we have a very creative element in the village and local businesses that are all about supporting one another. It boasts an award winning pub, contemporary gallery and artisan bakery.

I was always very single minded in what I was going to stock and my 'visual voice'. I feel that even in a rural village you should also be able to buy things that you could find in London, for example. I love it when people come in and find things and announce that I have just saved them a trip into the local town. 

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Any top tips for a day in Ticehurst and East Sussex?

You may need a long weekend! In which case, come and stay in one of the lodges at The Bell and use it as a base to discover the surrounding countryside. Pop for tea and cake at King Johns Nursery down the road and then get The Lighthouse bakery in the village to make you a delicious sandwich to take on a picnic. Pick up some contemporary Art at The Artichoke gallery.

Locally, head to Batemans, Sissinghurst Castle, and Great Dixter for your cultural fix. We are 25 minutes from the coast so I'd recommend Hastings Old Town and Norman Road in St. Leonards. There are some great shops like Butlers Emporium, Made in Hastings and Roberts Rummage in the Old Town and Wayward and SHOP, down the road in St. Leonards. And if you have time, pop to Rye; an antique and vintage lovers’ paradise with a great smattering of independents. You’ll find Merchant and Mills, McCully and Crane and Pale & Interesting among others. Take a walk too. We have some beautiful countryside in East Sussex. Combine a trip to Charleston farmhouse with a walk on The Downs. The list is endless!

How did you go about designing the shop? Did you have a particular aesthetic in mind when pulling it all together? 

The shop has come together organically; all the shop fittings are found objects, I just couldn’t have anything ‘new’ as its bones. My favourite shop prop is the workbench found at the local tip and snapped up for a fiver.

I knew I wanted a very blank canvas to set everything off so I painted the walls and floor white. It just makes the colours and textures pop. We have a lot crammed in so the white helps to keep the shop looking calm. Wabi Sabi rules here!

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You’ve been open for five years – what have been the highlights?

Interestingly five years is a real landmark. It really does take that long to establish your business, to get yourself known, to be recognised. So that in itself is a highlight, reaching that point. Appearing in an article in Country Living and designing cards and a haberdashery range for Liberty are up there, but on a personal level finding myself working with a group of like-minded people and creatives has been the best thing. I’ve definitely found my ‘gang’.

Can you talk us through your buying process?

So, I split my buying up into areas now and even seasons. I have a very different buying pattern for Christmas for example, much more structured. Vintage is split into textiles, homewares and haberdashery. Over time I have found products that I can buy wholesale to compliment the vintage; normally bought from small UK businesses. The joy of ferreting around for old stuff though is you really never know what you will find so the shopping list often gets thrown out the window. I have learnt to buy when I see things though.

What are your current bestsellers, and do you have any personal favourites?

I have just sold out of pale pink Woods Ware NHS mugs. I bought a haul of 85 and because of the colour and mid-century design they sold like hot cakes. Current favourites? Love the colours and designs of the Cambridge Imprint wrapping paper and I will never tire of rusty metal things. I’m also slightly obsessed with old keys at the moment.

To what extent are you influenced by trends?

Like most people I probably take a lot in through osmosis. I will normally try and attend a trends presentation at one of the trade fairs like Top Drawer because even though a lot of my products are vintage, I am still trying to present them in a way that works in a modern setting. It’s always good to know what’s coming up.

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What are the challenges, and best bits of running an independent store?

Having to be a jack-of-all-trades. The bigger the skills set you have the better. But also know when you need help. I do all my own photography, which saves me a lot of money, but I recently got myself an accountant as I was finding the stress of submitting my tax returns a little too much. Never get to the point where you feel overwhelmed. Play to your strengths and get help with anything else. I needed to be in charge of everything when I first started and it’s learning to let go a bit, which has been the hardest challenge. The best bits are the freedom, the creativity and the shopping!

What’s your approach to marketing? How easy is it to get the Old Haberdashery name out there?

Instagram is my marketing tool of choice. We have more people who come through our door and say hello at fairs because of it. It’s so easily accessible for people and they can see immediately if it's somewhere they would like to visit.

We may be rural but people plan road trips around shops they want to check out. The best piece of advice I was given was ‘Don’t sit there and expect people to find you’. I travel to fairs, use social media and network with people to let them know where we are. Five years on, people are still discovering us.

What are the key elements to running a successful independent store?

Perseverance. Hard graft. Self-belief. A good network of fellow business buddies to sound off to (big shout out to Sarah at Goose Home and Garden and Rose at Butlers Emporium!). Patience. Telling a visual story with your merchandising. As a keen photographer when styling the shop I bear this in mind by creating vignettes, which in turn becomes very useful when photographing the shop for our Instagram feed. And above all engage with your customers.

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Any advice for aspiring indie shop owners?

Be prepared to work very hard. You will use every skill from every job you have ever done. If you love what you do it will show. As a shopkeeper you are constantly front of house; even on a bad day it’s important to smile and engage with people.

Offer people that something which is a little bit different. Customers love a bit of retail theatre. They should enter your establishment and feel removed from the everyday world for a bit. Have a go! And remember there is nothing wrong with starting small.

What’s next on the horizon for The Old Haberdashery?

Watch this space! I’m entering a new phase and not quite sure where that will take me. But then that’s what keeps it interesting…

Old Haberdashery, 33A High Street, Ticehurst, East Sussex, TN5 7AS

Shopkeeper Spotlight: No.56

This month we meet Carole Elsworth owner of beautiful lifestyle store, No.56, in Penzance, Cornwall.

How would you describe the essence of No.56?

Simple, beautifully designed homeware and clothing to add joy to the everyday.

Can you tell us some more about how No.56 came about?

My training and background is in mens and womenswear design. I have always worked for myself and since moving to Cornwall twenty years ago, have done various things from growing vegetables and cut flowers to running a small artisan bakery. I opened No.56 to pull together everything I’d learnt and all the elements I loved, such as presentation and the sourcing of new products.

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You’ve recently started a series on Creative Customers – do you find yourself influenced by the people who shop with you?  

Not influenced as such, but I often find them inspiring. I love the people who are very quiet about their skills, who say they 'make something' themselves, but in fact are incredibly talented. We’re lucky that Cornwall has such an amazing creative community - who’ve been very supportive of No.56.

How do you balance running an online store and a brick and mortar shop? Do you have a preference?

Both run well together I think, I love the store, but also appreciate that the website has a far wider reach. It’s always a pleasant surprise to receive an order from a foreign country.

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What would be your top tips for a day out in Penzance?

A stroll along and around Chapel Street for the smaller independent shops (including No.56!), cafes, galleries  and beautiful buildings, before heading down to the newly refurbished Art Deco Jubilee Pool for a quick dip. Then a brisk walk along the promenade to Newlyn , stopping off at the Little Wonder Café for tea and cake. Walking further would bring you to Mousehole, or linger in Newlyn to visit the independent Newlyn Filmhouse – films and delicious food.

How did you go about designing the shop? Did you have a particular aesthetic in mind when pulling it all together?  

I designed the shop to be really simple, to reflect the products themselves. We were lucky to inherit a beautiful period window and fireplace, so could work around that. I wanted to keep a certain amount of flexibility with the fittings, to be able to adapt to new products and keep everything fresh.

You’ve been open since 2013 – what have been the highlights of the last 4 years?

The highlight I’d say was moving into the larger premises  (across the street from the original) in April 2016. It has enabled me to expand into both clothing and garden ware, just on a small scale but very exciting.

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Can you talk us through your buying process and decisions?

I knew what I wanted when I opened and am still trying to track some of these items down. So, yes I do have a list of missing products but am prepared to wait until I find what I’m looking for  - things I have in my mind's eye are simple stoneware bowls, particular baskets, the perfect notebook and knitwear pieces... 

Meanwhile, we now have some really interesting  makers contacting the shop or calling in, which is great - I don't attend trade fairs for fear of being overwhelmed, but do enjoy searching through the internet, particularly Instagram.  I bring in pieces from all over the world really, mixed in with some more locally made handcrafted items. There are plenty of shops and galleries in and around Penzance  supporting and specialising in local crafts, but I always wanted to offer a broader mix.

What are your current bestsellers, and do you have any personal favourites?

We are fortunate in that things seem to sell quite evenly across all areas, but the brushes always sell well as do the baskets. I don’t really have any personal favourites – everything is chosen carefully, so I love it all. If I had to select one favourite though, it would probably be the writing nib in the shape of an index finger … simple but such a delight.

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To what extent are you influenced by trends?

I am hopefully aware of what is going on but don’t see No.56 as a trend-led store. On the whole, I tend to buy pieces which I consider to be timeless.

What are the challenges, and best part of running an independent store?

For me the best thing is when a new customer walks into the store and feels completely at home. On a day to day level the challenges and highlights are those associated with running any small business – balancing the good and bad points of being in complete control!

What’s your approach to marketing? How easy is it to get the No 56 name out there?

Up until recently I have been mainly concentrating on the local market and working on making the store and website exactly as I want it. Now I feel we have a really solid base from which to promote No.56 further afield. We now have a beautiful Instagram feed which is really helping to spread the word.

What are key elements to running successful independent store?

I would say the most important thing is to keep focused on what you are selling and not to be side tracked. Stock what you love and that will set you apart from the larger corporate stores. Also try to identify things you're not so good at, and get help with these from people who really understand what you are about.

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Any advice for aspiring indie shop owners?

Just that it is possible to start small and gradually build up the business. Starting small is better than not starting at all…  

What’s next on the horizon for No. 56?

Since the move less than a year ago I feel we’ve only just started – there's always something to look forward to.

All photography by Natalie Coe, Carta Design

No.56, 14 Chapel Street, Penzance, Cornwall

www.no-56.com

Shopkeeper Spotlight: 32 The Guild

This month we chat to footwear designer, turned shopkeeper Zoie Walker, about her lifestyle store 32 The Guild...

How would you describe the essence of 32 The Guild?

Laid back, pared back, simple.

Can you tell us some more about how 32 The Guild came about? 

Before opening the shop, I was a footwear designer working in London. 32 The Guild came about when I moved to Northampton from London, as I was struggling to find a store which sold the kind of brands which interested me... So, I decided to do it myself!

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How did you go about designing the shop? Did you have a particular aesthetic in mind when pulling it all together? 

We take pride in uncovering beautifully made products and felt the shop should be reflective of this, so honest and minimal materials feature throughout the space. Natural woods, a reclaimed parquet counter and antique solid brass clothes rails showcase not only our own personal taste, but create an inviting, friendly atmosphere.

It was important to me that the store felt contemporary and relaxed. I was bringing something to Northampton which had not been done before so it was crucial to make my clients feel welcome. I love a store which feels exciting, showcasing a brand and product mix which I may not expect... I try to do exactly this at 32, and aim to bring together a blend of stunning products.

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You’ve been open since 2013 – what have been the highlights of the last 3 years?

A definite highlight was being featured in The Times as their boutique of the week just recently. It’s such an amazing achievement for us, being a tiny store in a relatively 'unknown' town like Northampton. I’m also proud of seeing our reputation spread, and that 32 is talked about as a store to watch.

You stock a wide range of products – from womenswear to home accessories, how do you balance the offering? Or do you find yourself naturally more drawn to stock particular ranges?

It is very instinctive: if I love the product, we stock it. This has really helped create a strong, distinctive brand identity for us. It doesn’t make sense to try and be everything to everyone. I believe that when you do this, your identity becomes watered down and you lose what it is that makes what you have special. I only buy an item for the shop if it fits comfortably within my aesthetic.

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Can you talk us through your buying process and decisions? 

Again, the process is simple and instinct-led. I make a plan as to what I would like to see from a store, and then go from there. I know that I enjoy a smaller, more curated offering and endeavour to create just that for 32. The golden rule is that I will only stock something in the shop if I would buy it myself. As a result I’m a walking advertisement for my store - I am head to toe 32 and live and breathe it!

What are your current best sellers, and do you have any personal favourites?

My personal favourites are the new season blue suede Grenson loafers - I just cannot get enough of their footwear. My all time favourite product has to be Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules. There really is no other fragrance like it - it is my must-have. Among our current best sellers are our Denham jeans - we’ve just had a new drop and our clients know the fit is amazing!

To what extent are you influenced by trends?

Though I am of course aware of what is current, I try however to avoid being a slave to the trends. I think if you immerse yourself in media, film, culture and travel you cannot help being influenced, and this is reflected in your style decisions. I’m not keen on buying pieces just because they follow the latest trend. This doesn’t sit well with me and often results in wastefulness. I much prefer to buy both for myself and the store with an eye to longevity and quality.

What are the challenges, and best part of running an independent store?

The absolute best part is the relationship I have with my customers. It is honestly a pleasure to come to work. I also love the creative freedom I have and being able to share it. The challenge is trying to juggle this with two small children and a husband who travels extensively with work!

How do you balance running an online store and bricks and mortar shop? Do you have a preference? 

I have someone who looks after the online store for me so that I can focus on the bricks and mortar store, which is where my passion lies. I love each step of the process, finding, selecting, curating and then finally, selling the product. Thankfully Anna, who runs our site, understands our vision and has done a great job of translating the mood of 32 onto our online presence.

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What’s your approach to marketing? How easy is it to get the 32 The Guild name out there?

I am still learning, but Instagram is an amazing tool for connecting and finding what our customers love. We all love its visual and community-led mood. We also send our customers a weekly email newsletter which has received a fantastic response. We try to include the pieces that we love, and every month we share our lifestyle edit of films, podcasts and music we’re jamming to in the shop too.

What are the key elements to running a successful independent store? 

Staff are everything! Everyone who works with me is an extension of myself and a great representation of what I believe in.

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What’s next on the horizon for 32 The Guild?

I have a tiny store which I love but I could definitely do with more room to grow. We’re always dreaming of what the shop could be, perhaps combining a larger shop floor with a creative space and a 32 yoga studio somewhere too. Creating a communal feeling is what we are all about, so it would be great to explore what else we can bring into the mix.

Finally, any advice for aspiring indie shop owners?

Don’t give up; believe in your product and your customers will too!

Photography: Anna Considine - This Last Moment

 

32 The Guild, 32 Guildhall Road, Northampton NN1 1EW

www.32theguild.com

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