Shopkeeper Spotlight: Slow North

An entrepreneurial spirit and a creative passion set Michelle and Jonathan Simmons on the road to opening Slow North, an artisan candle making business and lifestyle store. We talk to Michelle to find out how their store, in Austin, Texas, and their flourishing online business took shape.


Hi Michelle! How would you sum up your business, Slow North? 

Slow North is a naturally-inclined lifestyle brand that offers home goods and body care products, all with a focus on sustainability and intentional ingredients. Our retail store hosts creative workshops and stocks handcrafted and independently designed goods from women around the world. 

Who are the people behind your business?

I’m 100 per cent focused on the day-to-day operations, and my husband and co-founder of Slow North, Jon,  still works full-time for another company, so his time dedicated to Slow North is more limited, but he helps out a lot with strategy, design, web development, and all things ‘tech support’.  Besides the two of us, we have an amazing team of 11 people who help keep things running behind the scenes! 

 What inspired you to set up Slow North, and how did you develop it?

I was home on maternity leave for three months with my first son and wanted to start a side hustle. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and love trying out different business ideas. We came up with the idea of essential oil soy candles because we were having trouble finding a clean-burning candle we felt good about using in our home. We started working directly with candle manufacturers around the country to develop our collection, but quickly discovered we could make them better ourselves. What started as a hands-off business idea evolved into making candles from scratch in our kitchen and our garage! 

When did you set up the business, and what did you do previously?

I started selling our candles in the fall of 2015 at local pop-up markets on the weekends. I was still working as a territory sales manager for a kitchen cabinet company. I studied business management with a concentration in small business and entrepreneurship in college, but there is no education as valuable as learning as you go! After college, I worked a variety of outside sales jobs, mostly in the new construction industry selling kitchen cabinets to builders, so owning Slow North has been a big pivot for me. Jon is a user experience designer, and his eye for design is so valuable as we design new products. 

Where does the name come from?

Our name is centred around the ‘slow living’ ethos - our products are made by hand using natural ingredients. The ‘north’ portion of the name refers to wayfinding our way through life, using ‘north’ as a directionally positive guide. 

Do you have any creative pastimes, hobbies or other passions?

I’ve been a photographer for over 15 years, and have dabbled with other things like jewellery making and weaving. Right now, we have two little boys under the age of five, so they take up most of any free time we have! 


How did you create your space?

Our Slow North shop came about on a whim. I taught a candle making workshop on location in another local shop’s space and it started me thinking about having our own space to host workshops and sell our goods, since candles are a pretty tough sell online where you can’t actually smell them. We were also outgrowing our backyard candle studio at this point, and I decided to drive around looking for retail spaces. Originally, we agreed to just sublet the front portion of this larger commercial space so we’d have the windows. Slowly, the other tenants moved out and after a few landlord mishaps we ended up taking over the entire unit.

My goal for the aesthetic of the shop has always been a mix of natural wood, green/plants and white. We have amazing natural lighting from the wall of windows up front, so our pothos growing on the wall loves it! It took a little imagination to visualise where we are today, because when we signed the lease it had neon orange and charcoal coloured walls!

How are your candles made?

They are all made in-house, in our open kitchen-style storefront. We melt soy wax flakes, add a little coconut oil and carefully stir our custom essential oil blends into the pitchers. Once they have cooled we hand-pour the wax into six candle vessels. Our candles are made in small batches to ensure the quality of every one.

How do you source products to sit alongside Slow North’s?

I know about 50 per cent of the vendors we carry in the shop personally, from working alongside them at various artisan markets around the country. I love having that personal connection with the artists and fellow business-owners. The other vendors have either contacted us directly or we have found them online somehow. I’m the buyer for our shop, so I think that helps keep the aesthetic of goods we source from other makers similar to our own house brand products.

When did you discover your passion for what you do?

I first discovered there might be a bigger future for Slow North when we were accepted as a vendor at our first Renegade Craft Fair. It’s a well-recognised, highly-curated artisan fair that travels around the world, and I felt so validated after we were accepted through the jury process back in 2016. When you’re participating in artisan markets of that calibre, it’s impossible not to feel inspired and driven to be a bigger part of that community. It was the turning point for us, and at that point I made the decision to resign from my full-time sales job and focus wholly on Slow North. 

What are the joys and the challenges of working as an independent retailer?

It’s the best job I’ve ever had! I love creating a space where we can support our own brand along with the creative works of over 100+ other female artists and makers around the world. The #1 challenge for any business owner just starting up is financial, because you’re usually the last person to get paid. It takes a few years to figure out if what you’re doing is going to work, and in the meantime it can be stressful. 


What have been your business highlights so far?

Slow North has partnered with large retail chains like Anthropologie and Soft Surroundings, which is amazing! I’m always shocked that large companies like those would even know we existed! These have been completely organic partnerships where we get a random email one day from their buyer saying she’s interested in our line. Incredible! 

 What does a working day look like for you?

We take our sons to daycare (usually walking them) in the morning around 8am, then come home and get ready to leave for work. Most days, I go into the shop around 9 or 10, but I’m starting to work from home on Mondays to focus on strategy and higher-level planning undistracted. When I do work at the shop, I’ll spend time at my desk in the stockroom. I will say this about owning your own business: every day is new and different!  Sometimes I’m developing new products; sometimes I’m troubleshooting defective candle wicks; sometimes I’m planning photoshoots; sometimes I’m categorising expenses for our bookkeeper. My days usually end at the shop around 4:30 or 5pm, when I leave to pick up the kids, and then I’ll hop on my laptop again in the evening after they are in bed for a bit, to check-in or plan for the next day. 


How has your business evolved since you began?

Our business model is so different today from what it was in 2015! Our original plans of working with a candle manufacturer quickly changed, and I decided to make the candles myself. From a studio in our detached garage the business grew, and I was soon hiring a few part-time assistants to help me with production. By 2017, we were subletting a commercial space to open a retail shop/candle studio and hosting workshops - then in 2018, we added a soft goods line to our house brand. We’ve also expanded sewing production and our team into the entire commercial space with, very little room to wiggle! 

How do you find juggling an online business with a physical shop?

Our physical shop and the online store work so well in tandem to create brand awareness for us. The only time it gets a little tricky is if an online order comes in during the day for the last item of something we have in stock. We monitor our online orders throughout the day so we don’t accidentally oversell something in-person! 

How do you approach marketing and PR?

Our marketing and PR have been extremely organic. We’ve been fortunate enough to be featured by Martha Stewart Living, the Magnolia Journal, Brit + Co and many others, without any formal outreach campaigns. This year, we are working with a consultant to help us evolve our brand’s visual guide, tone and voice - but it honestly hasn’t been one of the focuses for us these past four years. 


What are your favourite products, makers or bestsellers?

Our best-selling Slow North product is our Eucalyptus & Lavender candle, followed by our rose quartz facial rollers. One of our best-selling makers is Elizabeth Crandall’s Vibe jewellery line. She creates gorgeous, adjustable silk necklaces adorned with gemstones - each having their own meaning. We restock her necklaces monthly. 

Any tips to share with aspiring independent store owners?

I’d recommend having a great deal of cash reserves, because it takes a while to gain traction as a new shop. We are a little different in that we use our space to manufacture the goods we sell through our wholesale channel, as well as sell goods to our retail customers. If we were 100 per cent retail, it would be even more of a struggle to ride out the slower seasons. We’ve definitely had our fair share of $0 days in the first year. I’d also pay more to be in a heavy foot-traffic area because the customers who pop in just walking by have been really beneficial for our business. We are located between a coffee shop and a restaurant, and share a parking lot with a movie theatre! 

SlownorthMixer-3 - credit Chelsea Francis.jpg

What does the next 6 months hold for you?

We are weeks away from launching our new linen spray collection! We will be rolling them out in four scents - Sweet Clementine, Wanderlust, Orange & Clove and Lavender & Mint. They will be packaged in cobalt blue bottles with white fine-mist sprayers to match our essential oil diffuser blends. We are so excited about them! After that, we will be launching a small apparel collection screen-printed by our neighbours here in Austin. 

Find Slow North online at and on Instagram.

2700 W. Anderson Lane , Suite 410, Austin, Texas 78757

Photography by Armin Panjvani & Chelsea Francis

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Morningtide

Created by graphic designer Lisa Jackson (owner of Good on Paper Design) and ceramic artist Lisa Fontaine, lifestyle store Morningtide on California’s West Coast, brings together their creative skills and passion for design. We caught up the ‘Lisa’s’ to hear about curating collections, supporting artisans and the joys of being each others work-wives.


When and why did you decide to open Morningtide?

We opened up Morningtide in the fall of 2017 because we felt like our neighborhood was in need of some fresh new retail. We both love design and curating a shop felt like a natural next step after running our own creative businesses for years. We were ready for a new project!


What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?

Our experience with our own businesses helped us greatly. We both understand the work ethic and dedication it takes to create a successful start up. Our styles align, so curating the shop is easy and fun. We are both committed to excellent communication and to work on our work-wife relationship as much as one would a domestic partner.

Photo: Marble & Rye Photography

Photo: Marble & Rye Photography

How did you decide on the name?

We both wanted our shop name to evoke a feeling of a calm and slow morning (we both have young kids so we don't know what that's like!) We brainstormed a big list of words and the words "morning" and "tide" were included in that list. After a late night perusing, we discovered that morningtide is the archaic word for morning. It just felt right and we are so happy with it.

How would you describe the interior style of the store?

Modern, clean, minimal and natural with a Californian/West Coast beachy aesthetic.


You're passionate about supporting artisan and ethical production, why is this so important to you?

We only get one chance at treating our planet with kindness and each of us has the opportunity to do our own part. For Morningtide, we can make a positive impact by stocking local artists who create natural products free of toxins.

You’ve recently added a sustainable living section to the shop, tell us more about it…

The new sustainable living section includes bamboo ware, reusable straws, and ceramic and silicone to-go containers. Adding this section aligns with our own personal ethics, while still maintaining a Morningtide aesthetic for clean and modern design. We are excited about expanding this section of the shop.

We are also really excited about our Morningtide Loop—a curated selection of gently used independent designer brands created to encourage the investment in slow fashion brands, upcycling, and sustainability. In addition, every piece of clothing purchased new in our shop could be resold through our Morningtide Loop.


How do you source your gorgeous stock?

We travel to Los Angeles to attend independent designer trade shows and showrooms to source our women's clothing. We find our ceramic artists, jewellery and gifts at local shows such as West Coast Craft at Fort Mason in San Francisco. We also find out about many new brands through Instagram.

As well as stocking wares from independents, do you create anything in-house?

Yes! Lisa (Fontaine) is a ceramic artist, she creates some of the ceramics we sell. Lisa (Jackson) is a graphic designer and designs all of the event flyers and sells a few of her greeting cards and notepads in the shop.


Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?

Everyday Oil is our best selling product. It's unisex skincare for your face, body and hair made from 100% plant-based botanical oils and smells divine. Everyday Oil also makes an unscented version, perfect for babies or those sensitive to essential oils. Also, the price point is great.

What do you enjoy most about running Morningtide?

Interacting with the customers each day is a total joy. Our shop is in a very small community so we have dozens of customers who pop in weekly. We've gotten to know their children, their dog, and the types of products they gravitate towards. We love bringing people together at our pop-up events too.


What has been your career highlight (so far!)?

Opening up the shop has been the highlight! We were excited but also scared to open a shop at a time when people warned us that retail is dead. It felt like a risk in the beginning but it has really worked out well in our favour. We find that our community still values being able to come into a brick and mortar shop, talk to a friendly shop keeper, and make their purchases rather than shopping online.


What is the neighbourhood like? Do you have a community of independent stores around you?

Our neighbourhood is very family friendly and the locals love supporting their local businesses. The main street does have a lot of independent businesses that have been there for 30+ years, mostly service businesses. We don't have a lot of direct retail competition on the street which is nice for us, but we have a nearby coffeeshop that shares a customer demographic to us so we make a good pair.


Before you go, do you have any top tips/advice for those thinking of starting their own store?

It's a lot of work and can be overwhelming at times but having a great business partner has been huge for us. Since we share the workload, we are able to take a lot on and try out a lot of different ideas without ever reaching full burnout. We could not do this without each other nor would we want to!

Find Morningtide at 847 Cornell Avenue, Albany, CA

Online at and on Instagram

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cherryade

Cherryade, an exquisitely curated and beautifully designed store in Poundbury, is the creation of husband and wife team Ginny and Ian Stanley. Soon to launch online too, we talk to Ginny about taking the time to build the personality of a brand, and what it’s like working together as a couple.

shop front.jpg

Hi Ginny! Tell us about the team behind the scenes at Cherryade…

As a husband and wife duo we are responsible for all facets of the business, from the fun stuff like sourcing and buying, to the boring jobs like the office paperwork. Most of our big decision making is made together – luckily, we agree most of the time! We are now very lucky to be supported in the shop by a small team of amazingly talented staff, each with their own strengths and expertise - the value of good employees is not to be underestimated!


What inspired you to set up your business, and how did you develop the idea?

We ran a coffee shop together for a few years, and began selling a small collection of homeware. We quickly realised that this was the direction we wanted to take, so we sold the cafe and focused on starting a new business.

We opened almost six years ago. Having previous experience of being self-employed helped enormously, so we were well aware of how much time and effort is required and how all-consuming it becomes. 

chair corner.jpg

Could you describe Cherryade, in a nutshell?

We are a design-led concept store, offering curated collections of goods for life and home. Our collections feature jewellery, bath and fragrance, children and baby, cards and wrap, stationery, books, homeware, utility and house plants.


Where does the name come from?

Driving home from the Peak District one day, ‘Sally Cinnamon’, a Stone Roses track came on the radio, and we were singing along. ‘Cherryade’ was in the lyrics, and it was born. It doesn’t really mean anything, it just stuck and we went with it!


Do you have a core ethos or set of values at the heart of your business?

We feel strongly attracted to the concepts of slow living and wabi sabi, and want to show their value to our customers. Taking time to appreciate the simple things in life fits exactly with our ethos and is reflected in our product range. Self-care, products with sustainability in mind, and those that celebrate natural materials and textures are also a focus. We try to choose special pieces that will stand the test of time and bring joy when you use or see them.

coffee shot.jpg

Tell us about your neighbourhood…

We are based in Poundbury, a newly built village-like urban extension to the county town of Dorchester in beautiful Dorset. Built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, it’s home to a great collection of independent shops and cafe’s amongst residential housing, and has become a popular destination for both locals and visitors as an alternative to the traditional high street.


How valuable is social media and Instagram to your work?

We have been steadily growing our Instagram and online community since we opened. It grows with us organically and I hope shows our culture and authenticity. It’s a real feel-good moment when customers tell us they have come specifically after seeing a post - sometimes travelling some distance. It reaffirms how important our online community is. How amazing to be able to reach out to people who like what we do every day! It’s a privilege, and a part of shop life I really enjoy.


How did you go about designing the Cherryade store?

It was love at first sight with our building. It’s sited on a corner plot, with a double-aspect and two entrances. It’s a building that looks and feels architecturally impressive and beautiful from the outside. Internally the high ceilings and huge arched windows form a space that is full of light. We created individual zones for our categories of products to be merchandised together, like a mini-department store, with the intention that each area has enough room to give the product and/or designer credence.

shop shot.JPG

How do you source and curate your collections?

When we travel we gain inspiration from places we visit, and of course we enjoy the trade shows in London, Paris and particularly Scandinavia. We have our favourite suppliers who have remained consistently strong for us and continually bring out new collections.

It’s good to visit their showrooms to see and hold products in the flesh, and then consider our buying focus and direction for each season. Increasingly we find we can source online, especially finding some of the less well known smaller designers and creatives who may not have a presence at trade shows. We find the most difficult bit is deciding what not to buy! Editing and curating takes up a lot of our time!

meraki bottle.jpg

What do you find are the pros and cons of running an independent store?

We love working for ourselves and making our own decisions. We have spent our whole married life working together and it is hard to imagine anything different now. It definitely has its challenges of course! The main one for us - as it is for anyone who is self-employed - is the continual battle to find the right work/life balance. There really aren’t enough hours in the day! 


What have been Cherryade’s highlights, so far?

Highlights for us are always customer satisfaction and positive feedback. It’s reassuring to hear that people ‘get it’, and we take that compliment very personally. Every single decision is measured and considered, so it is confirmation of that effort paying off when we get lovely comments.


Do you have a typical ‘working day’?

I split my time between being on the shop floor, buying, and working on social media. We don’t have an on-site office, so we find quite a lot of time is also spent working from home. It can be difficult trying to concentrate on buying decisions and budgets with the buzz of the shop happening at the same time! There is always a huge amount to do on a daily basis, such as serving and spending time with customers, working on displays and merchandising, taking deliveries, and plant care.


How has your business evolved since you began?

We are constantly evolving as trends come and go, new designers and suppliers come on the scene, and of course we are always looking for something new to offer our customers. The house plant trend in recent years is one such example, as its now become such an integral part of what we do, to the extent that the shop has become a bit of a jungle! We started some years ago by introducing a few succulents and cacti, and have since progressed to weekly deliveries of many differing species, varieties, sizes and shapes! 

Our online business is now all set to launch. It was always our intention to let the physical shop grow and gain personality, to develop its culture before going online, which I believe has been crucial for us. It’s going to be a big year!


How do you handle marketing and PR?

We do very little traditional advertising and struggle to see much value in that anymore for a business like ours, considering the power of social media. We find having direct engagement with our followers and customers benefits us considerably more.


Any favourite products, makers or bestsellers?

The love is always there for every single product that we choose to stock. Earl of East London scented soy candles are a particular favourite, currently. Each has a beautiful back story of how the fragrance was created, each with a totally unique scent. The quality is excellent. 


And do you have any gems of advice for aspiring independent store owners?

Be prepared for blood, sweat and tears -  and very long hours! Concentrate on the positive comments, ignore the negative ones. Listen to as much advice as possible - but don’t believe all of it. Trust your instincts!

string of hearts.jpg

What’s in the pipeline for you and Cherryade?

We expect most of our attention in the immediate future will be taken with the launch of and growing that into as much of as a success as we can. 

Find Cherryade Life Store at 180 Bridport Road, Poundbury, Dorset.
Online at and on Instagram.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Holy Water

Located in the picturesque seaside village of Beer, Devon, Holy Water is a modern apothecary store stocking beautiful natural products free from preservatives and harsh chemicals; instead they are full of hand collected, foraged and harvested from-the-wild goodies. We spoke with Alyssa, who runs Holy Water with her husband Wil, to talk simplistic style, hand-making products and breaking the ‘expensive equals quality’ mindset…

Hi Alyssa! When and why did you decide to open Holy Water? 

I moved from the States in April 2018 after living and working in Seattle, WA. We were living in Bath at the time and had been searching for a shop space in which to explore this new venture. We were on holiday in Beer and saw a 'for rent' sign in the window. We ended up taking it that week, which was wild!


What had you both done before? Did any of these skills help?

Wil (still) works in the design industry for the Danish company HAY. While I worked for an herbal apothecary in Seattle and a gin company in Bath - before that I'd always been in retail and management. These skills were essential to our decision to open a shop. Wil could source the materials to make the shop look presentable and I could speak about the products we sell. 

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

Sounds like a dream team! How did you decide on the name?

Five years ago when I started the brand, I was consumed with how much water changes the skincare routine. We need to consume water for clear skin, to wash our skin, to mix the masks, salts for the bath, etc. It was a play on words for how sacred water is to the skin. Although we do get a lot of religious questions! 


How would you describe the interior style of Holy Water?

Originally it was pretty bland. When we took the property on we stripped back the 70's wood-chip and re-plastered and re-painted. We only had about ten days to turn a shell into the shop. We rescued a beautiful parquet cash desk from the bin. We also found the shelves for the jars from an old school that had been remodelled. We found Wedgwood factory drying shelves in old oak which sit in front of an exposed stone wall. So it's a mix of old and modern that's sits well with our brand list. It was really imperative for us to keep the integrity of the building in tact and keep it simple.

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

You're passionate about natural products, why is it so important to you?

I've always been attracted to products derived from natural and herbal constituents. In fact, I can remember being a child and pressing strawberries and raspberries to my cheeks and lips to stain them over using my mom’s makeup. I worked for a few natural markets before working for an apothecary and I think that helped to push me in the right direction; seeing individuals so excited about making products at home using no nonsense ingredients that could actually HELP you was a game changer.

I also grew up with a low-waste father who instilled the important of reusing and recycling everything. I want to keep the conversation out in the open about skincare and not hide behind clever packaging and tricky hidden labels. I suffered with acne for most of my life and the only thing that helped me was natural skincare and herbs. This is my primary reason for doing this- to help humans feel their best and most beautiful. 

How do you source your wares?

I'd been compiling a list for months of stockists we'd want to carry if we opened our own space. Some are from the States and others are from England- we have a few "rules" we follow if we stock products at the shop- local, handmade, homemade or ethically/sustainably made.

We have a lot of local products from Devon and south England as well as small batch homemade products. It's so important for us to support the local community. 

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer
Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

As well as stocking from independents, what do you create in-house? Do you enjoy the process?

In the shop we make three bath soaks and four clay masks. This process is incredibly personal to me. I walk the coast of Devon to collect varieties of seaweed and dry them in the shop, I pick the yarrow in season, our cousins make us the charcoal in Devon and I grind all of the oats and rose petals by hand. Making these are the most meditative and quiet I can be while constantly thinking about what's next! 


That’s so lovely! Which item is your best seller?

Our salts, masks, soaps and Juniper Ridge are our best sellers. I think people always want to support local now, which is great. Knowing we make them in-house exclusively makes them a little more special as a gift or for the home. Juniper Ridge is a Californian company (where I am originally from) that distills indigenous herbs and uses the essential oils for their soaps. It smells amazing and they donate 10% of all sales to protecting the wilderness. 


Which product is your can't-live-without? You can choose a few if it’s too difficult…

I definitely can't live without the clay masks or the herbs. We sell over 75 organic herbs for teas, tinctures or recipes that I rely on to feel my best. I mostly drink nettle, red raspberry leaf, clover and ginko. However the roots are really helpful for clearing the skin - burdock, dandelion, liquorice and yellow dock. The masks I definitely need to keep my skin evened out!

What do you enjoy most about running Holy Water?

The people who visit. It's my passion to speak about natural products and herbal remedies and I love helping people to find "their product" even if it's just a bar of soap. Each one of our labels has a backstory and I thoroughly enjoy telling people about them.

I also love creating custom teas for different situations to keep it personal and individual. I really hate going into a shop and nobody can give me any information on the products - I wanted to learn as much as I could and stay updated and educated to be the most helpful for the guests who come in.

I also keep all of our products under £40. I don't think beautiful things should be expensive and I don't think cheaper products aren't good for you. In fact I'm trying to break the "expensive equals quality" routine we seem to be in. Good products can be ethical and affordable and are in many cases better for your skin and body/mind.

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer
Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

What has been your career highlight (so far!)?

Opening a shop has been a huge accomplishment - although it has definitely been a learning curve. We haven't yet been open a year and there are so many variants we have to keep in the forefront. Expanding without losing integrity or "selling out," keeping a decent selection without overpricing products, staying present and informed about those products and our stockists. 

Do you have any top tips for those thinking of starting their own store?

It's important to remember why you're doing it. I wanted a shopfront to sell teas and skincare because I genuinely want people to feel their best. So the integrity and ethos is in the forefront. It's also imperative to TAKE IT SLOW. We opened the shop on savings and didn't take a huge loan which means we had the opportunity to build very slowly and not rush to make the shop fully packed with products. This means we are extra careful in choosing the brands we stock and careful about how quickly we expand. Also staying creative! We had no expensive shop-fit, just paint and a few really good finds. Keep it simple and keep it you. 

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

What does the future hold for Holy Water?

We're definitely excited to introduce more small independent brands in store! We are also working to develop low waste and bulk skincare in refillable and recyclable packaging- as well as compostable and sustainable skincare and teas. We're trying to incorporate our surroundings - both natural and personal - into the stock as much as possible... so stay tuned! 

Find Holy Water at Fore Street, Beer, Devon, EX12 3JB and online.

Follow them on Instagram.

Photography: Jim Holland  and Caroline Rowland

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Sancho's

Kalkidan Legesse and partner Vidmantas Markevicius first met at university – the two like-minds beginning a journey that led to the creation of Sancho’s, an inspiring and inclusive ethical clothing and lifestyle store in Exeter, and online. We talk to co-founder Kalkidan to find out more…

Women's shop - outside with Kalkidan.jpg

Hi Kalkidan! How would you sum up the essence of your business, Sancho’s?  

Sancho's main shop is a beautiful little space in the best part of town, where you can discover some fantastic ethical brands, and also learn about how sustainable fashion works. The staff are brilliantly friendly, dogs are welcome and the clothes are all made with natural environmentally sound fabrics in fair trade conditions. 

Sancho's bath & body.jpg

What inspired the idea of setting up Sancho’s, and what was your journey in making it a reality?

Our first objective with Sancho's was to celebrate crafts from fair trade producer groups in Ethiopia. I had actually not really known how clothing was made until I first saw weaving in Ethiopia during a work placement. It blew my mind, like seeing a new colour. I suddenly got a sense for how the clothing, that usually is only associated with style and trend, comes from the hard work of individuals, and I fell in love. Weaving is like that - weavers create fabrics and clothes from things as simple as cotton spools. I thought that was amazing then, and I still do! As an Ethiopian I was also really proud to see this new culture, art and story from my home. A story so different to what I grew up learning about Ethiopia - centred on poverty and Bob Geldof. I wanted to share that with the world.

Anne T and Culottes - Sancho's Design.jpg

The idea developed because we learnt that we were not the only ones who didn’t really understand how clothing was made - and actually our ignorance was not by accident but by design. The industry is focused around selling customers new clothes - and presenting the idea that we all need to keep up with fast changing trends - whilst encouraging us to seek the lowest possible price. This of course comes at the cost of the makers in developing countries around the world. We wanted to change that, connecting people with makers and providing a shop for brands, makers and designers actually doing the process right, and transparently. That’s how Sancho's became the ethical clothing and lifestyle shop that it is today. 

Grl Pwr Tee - Monkee Genes.jpg

What are co-founder Vidmantas and your backgrounds?

We were both students studying various forms of sustainable economics. I’m an Ethiopian immigrant, he is a Lithuanian immigrant, and we met during the summer working as part-time waiters at the university. We both had to work as students (I actually started working at 14, as a paintball marshall), and gained a range of experience, from part-time teaching to working for non-governmental and non-profit organisations. We first started Sancho's at university, and opened a pop-up about one month after graduating. 

Sancho's store 2.jpg

Where does the name Sancho’s come from?

Sancho is a nickname used to describe girls who are strong and a little chubby in Ethiopia. It’s a household name that I picked up from childhood, having always been strong and a little chubby. As my name is unusual for the UK (although very common in other parts of the world), I have picked up various nicknames over the years, but Sancho has always stood out as my favourite!

Kalkidan in Anne T - Sancho's Design.jpg

What are the values that underpin your business?

We set out to create as much positive impact as we can through fashion. So our clothing is made with natural and sustainable materials, under fair trade conditions. We ensure that we source from suppliers that have these principles by looking for audits and certificates, like those provided by the Global Organic Textile Standard and the World Fair Trade Organisation.

We have a range of small scale, locally-made items which are not certified - however in these cases we deal with the makers directly and always follow prices set by them. We have also built a repairing service into our business, so that we can alter clothing for other people and repair small damages - this allows us to put no clothing into landfill at all as a business, and as a result we are quite pleased!

Being ethical and sustainable is a journey, and we try to ensure that we are always moving in the right direction by reviewing our purchasing decisions regularly and applying new information as we learn it. 

Women's shop - inside.jpg

How did you first discover your love for what you do, and realise the direction you wanted to take?

I'm not sure that I see Sancho's as one direction. I, like most other people, am discovering myself and my goals for my life. Sancho's currently is the gift in which my partner and I get to live our values and make our impact on the world. I love it because it is so freeing in direction, and takes me multiple places. Every now and again, I try to sit down with myself to make sure that I am living my values, and that Sancho's is healthy and moving forward - then I try to align these two things. 

Neela Monkeys on a Wire - Armedangels.jpg

What inspires you creatively in what you do at Sancho’s?

I’m very much motivated by trying to live out the words 'be the change you want to see in the world'. A lot of our decisions come from asking ourselves what is the best we can do with the business as our tool. For example, over the past year or so, the real cost of single waste plastic use on the environment is becoming clearer. We've been learning alongside our customers that we have to change our habits. As a result, we did some research and found that people find it quite challenging to source alternatives to single plastic products - things as simple as wooden tooth brushes or traditional steel razors. There are a whole host of products that people might not even consider to replace, such as sanitary products (the average women uses over 1000 tampons in her adult life!). After we had done this research, we knew we wanted to at least provide a small alternative, which is why we launched our zero waste range. Most of our decisions happen organically like that, and because we hope that they will do a little good. 

Sancho's zero waste.jpg

Is the online community integral to your work?

Most of our communication happens on social media and it is a hugely useful tool for building a community and staying in touch with them. We spend quite a lot of time on our Instagram, and love using it. 

Robyn in Thought Culottes.jpg

Do you have any creative pastimes and passions?

I wish I could say that I had many other pastimes, but I spend most of my time working on Sancho's. Happily so, currently. I am also a keen (amateur) runner, and feel really lucky to be so close to the green spaces near Exeter. If I want to unwind, I will paint - currently privately but one day this is a skill I'd like to hone in on.

Kiki Tropical jewellery.jpg

How did you go about designing Sancho’s spaces?

We want our stores to feel inviting and inclusive, like the home of a radical and loving aunty who has great sense of fashion! We did this by mixing in slogans - our affirmations - with natural materials, bright spaces and of course, beautiful clothes. We hope that people find the shop easy and welcoming. 

How do you source and curate pieces for Sancho’s?

We source our stock a few different ways, from going to shows, to scrolling through Instagram, and also sometimes travelling out to areas where makers excite me. A range of things really, and this constantly evolves depending on what is being made where, and my budget for trips! 

Sancho's store.jpg

What are the joys, and the challenges, of working as an independent retailer?

I love the freedom there is in making so many decisions on the basis of personal goals, taste and values. Whether that is as simple as the music to play that day, or as complex as launching a collection. But of course, the freedom also comes with responsibilities, and sometimes I wish that there was someone to tell me what to do (although whenever anyone does, I am immediately reminded as to why being independent is hugely important to me personally). 

I would be lying if I said that it was not financially challenging, or that it did not require long hours - because of course it is and it does. But when I am worried about finances, I try to remember that there are people in this world that have always had so much that they've never had to worry, and I’m reminded that my worry is a reality that I can navigate through. And recently, I've learnt to rest when the hours become too long - so these challenges, like others, are manageable.

Sancho's Culottes in Clay.jpg

What have been your business highlights so far?

Opening our second store was a huge triumph - I believe this is when it felt like we actually had a business for the first time - I am not sure why. 

How does your typical working day look?

I usually get up around 7.30am, then check emails and Instagram, shower, drink coffee, and sometimes I’ll go for a short run. Then during an average day - I review plans for the day, send out tasks for the team, head to the shop, check online orders and deliveries, respond to emails, speak with our lovely customers, find out how our designs are progressing, read about sustainability, project objectives for the next day/week/year and write a plan, have a meeting with a client, supplier or colleague, serve customers, answer phone calls, hop on Instagram again, tell a joke, do a little dance, get super hungry, head home, edit the website, watch Vidmantas cook dinner, eat loads, have a shallow bath or hot shower, watch some Netflix, text my mum, and finally - sleep!

L-R: Ashley Petrons, Marketing Manager, Aoife Littlejohn, Sales, Kalkidan Legesse, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Robyn Elizabeth, Sales, Paula Charity, Sales Manager & Vidmantas Markevicius, Co-Founder

L-R: Ashley Petrons, Marketing Manager, Aoife Littlejohn, Sales, Kalkidan Legesse, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Robyn Elizabeth, Sales, Paula Charity, Sales Manager & Vidmantas Markevicius, Co-Founder

How do you find juggling an online business with a physical shop?

It’s very natural to me, given that we live in a digital era, to have a presence both in store and online. 

Which are your bestsellers or favourite products?

We are super excited about our Foundation collection, which is being made here in Devon! The shapes are so flattering and the colours are really rich, so they have proven to be popular with our customers. We are also in love with the minimalist range of jewellery from Clare Elizabeth - the styles are so chic and made so well, they always make a huge impact. 

I'm with Her jumper - Sancho's.jpg

How do you approach marketing and PR?

We simply try to get as informed as we can, and then follow up leads that excite us. 

Any tips to share with aspiring independent store owners?

I think the best things that anyone looking to start their own store or business can do is learn how to trust their gut, learn how to take good advice (wherever it comes from) and learn how to ignore fear and self-doubt long enough to get started. 

L-R Robyn and Kalkidan

L-R Robyn and Kalkidan

What’s up next for you and Sancho’s?

We are exploring design and producing our own collections! Our goal is to bridge the gap in sustainable basics between affordability and style. The collections will all be made in the UK and will be an inclusive fit in size.

Find Sancho’s at 117 Fore Street (womenswear) and 126 Fore Street (menswear), Exeter and online.

Follow them on Instagram.

Photography: Harry Cooke

91 Magazine curated collection

I’ve always loved the idea of having a beautiful shop. In fact I did run an online shop for a while about 10 years ago, but there is something particularly alluring for me about an actual bricks and mortar shop. The curation of lovely objects, the display and styling, the textures, the smells… all the things that can only be experienced IRL. It’s a bit of a pipe dream really, I mean lets face it, I’ve got enough on my plate! But, in the last few weeks I’ve managed to make the next best thing a reality….

91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection

I have curated a collection of beautiful items from UK makers and designers which are for sale in Mad Lilies - a wonderful independent florists and homeware store in my own village of Banstead in Surrey. When I moved here a couple of years ago, I found myself often popping in here for a browse or to buy shoot flowers and soon got to know the lovely owner Alison and her team. Alison started stocking the magazine in the shop, and collaborating together became an obvious next step.

91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection

I’ve taken over a small section of the shop with a tightly curated range of items from some of my favourite indie makers and designers - some very local to us here in Surrey, some based further afield, but all within the UK.

There are ten brands included in this collection and many of the items I already have in my own home. We have ceramics by two local makers - Raquel of Glaze Me Pretty and Hilda Carr - plus the dreamiest of organic skincare products by LA EVA - whose studio space you may have spotted in our last issue. We have beautiful illustrated prints and stationery from designers The Lovely Drawer, Hattie Maud, Katrina Sophia, Traces of Magic and Maggie Magoo. The cutest little woven pots by La Basketry and candles (which have been personalised for us!) by Helm London.

91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection

I’m super passionate about supporting and promoting independent business, so it’s been such a joy to work with Mad Lilies and with all the designers involved to put this together. The plan is for the range to be on sale for an initial three month period, and then we will review it. Ideally, I’d love to continue and to add and rotate some of the work in the collection.

If you are ever in the North Surrey area (Banstead is near to Sutton & Epsom and not too far from Reigate and Dorking) do pop into Mad Lilies for a browse. There is a lovely cafe opposite called Fego, perfect for lunch or even a few cheeky cocktails, and while you’re here, drive 5 mins out of the village to Louisa Grace - three barns packed full of gorgeous vintage and industrial furniture - it’s amazing. The Lavender fields are right there too (although they don’t open until June) or you can nip over to Banstead Woods where there is a Narnia trail and an amazing bluebell walk which should be coming into bloom soon.

If you can’t make it for a visit in person, then Mad Lilies will soon launch their new Mad Lilies at Home website where you will be able to purchase items from the collection direct from your sofa. I will keep you posted on that via social media and our newsletter.

91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection
91 Magazine x Mad Lilies curated collection

Thank you to Alison at Mad Lilies for giving me the space to promote the wonderful independent creative community right here in my local village!

Visit them at: 84 High Street, Banstead, Surrey, SM7 2NN


Photography: Jemma Watts

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Dahlia

Located in Marchmont, Edinburgh, Dahlia has quickly bloomed into life, becoming a go-to destination for plant-lovers, stocking all you need to add some gorgeous greenery to your home and life (from the plants themselves to ceramics to house them and more). 

We chat to owner Phoebe Hutcheson to talk plants, interior style and how Instagram inspires her…


When and why did you decide to open Dahlia?

From a result of always having a love for plants and nature as well as many years in retail, I decided to open Dahlia - with support from family and friends, the dream Iʼd been working on for a year became reality.


What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?

Prior to opening Dahlia, I had trained as a barista and also did a foundation year in art school. These experiences helped me immensely in both confidence and in being able creatively run my shop, always having an eye for new products and merchandising.


How did you decide on the name?

I knew from the beginning that I wanted our name to be along the botanical lines but something that I hadnʼt seen before! After about a week of researching flower names landed on Dahlia and it just felt right after that!


How would you describe Dahlia’s interior style?

Colourfully minimal. I like to group colours in certain areas of the shop, for example one of our most photographed areas is ‘the pink cornerʼ which is where we display our Boy Smells candles and all of our various pink ceramics!


You're passionate about all things plants and plant-inspired, why do you love them so much? And why do you think other people do too?

I think my childhood and going to the Edinburgh Steiner School contributes a lot to my love of all things green. I have always enjoyed being outdoors and being able to bring a bit of that inside is always a positive. Additionally, I think that due to life being so fast-paced and technological these days, having a bit of greenery in your home is good for your health, both mentally and physically.


How do you source your gorgeous stock?

We source our stock from multiple places. A lot of our ceramics are handmade in Morocco which makes them all very individual and special. Instagram is also an amazing tool in finding new makers! There are so many talented local artists showcasing their work these days.


Do you create any of your wares in-house?

Last year I started to read up on terrariums. I love the idea of being able to create mini green spaces in sourced glassware, as well as them being incredibly easy to look after. I make our terrariums both in store and at home in Leith.


Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is? 

Our matte painted ceramic pots have always been our number one item! Weʼve had them since day one. I think due to the vast amount of colours they come in; thereʼs a pot for everyone. As well as our pots, our best selling plant has got to be the pin-striped calathea. We get a lot of questions as to whether they are real or not due to their very distinctive blush pink stripes running up their leaves.


Which is your personal favourite?

My canʼt-live-without would have to be all of our small cacti and succulents! Along with our range of small matte paint pots they all fit into - theyʼre our most favourite pick up item for birthdays, thank you gifts and all occasions!


You have a loyal Instagram following, how has social media helped Dahlia to grow?

Instagram has massively helped Dahlia establish a name for herself! Although being fairly centrally located, weʼre a bit far out for some of our customers, so being able to post regularly showing all of our new pots, plants or candles is really helpful for people who may have to make a journey to see us! Instagram has also allowed us to get to know our customers and other local businesses on a more personal level which has been lovely.


Do you have any top tips/advice for those thinking of starting their own store?

My advice would always be to trust your own instincts and really believe in what youʼre wanting to share with the world. Starting your own business isnʼt easy, but when you are truly passionate about what youʼre doing, it’s the most rewarding thing in the world. Expect to make mistakes along the way but try to remember them and grow from them, because they will have happened for a reason.

Find Dahlia at 17 Roseneath St, Edinburgh, EH9 1JH

Follow them on Instagram

Photography: Mcglynn Sisters

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Luna & Curious

This month’s Shopkeeper Spotlight shines firmly on Shoreditch lifestyle collective, Luna & Curious. Curated by three artisan makers: ceramicists Polly and Kaoru and jewellery-maker Rheanna, the store is proudly passionate about British manufacturing, sustainability and being part of the East End community.We spoke to the trio behind Luna & Curious to find out more…


When and why did you decide to open Luna & Curious?

The idea to open Luna & Curious was formed in April 2006. We opened in June 2006. Luna & Curious began as a collective of seven designers who got together to open a shop to sell their own wares. It proved very successful, the ‘day-a-week-each’ commitment soon grew and was too much for some, with a move to bigger premises needed, we took on Luna & Curious as a trio.

How would you describe the store’s interior style?

From the outset, Luna & Curious has been white, any foray with colour has always been short lived. Influenced by Martin Margiela, white provides a unifying background for a varied range of distinctive products.


You're passionate about British manufacture, why is it so important to you?

Luna & Curious began in a time where provenance was not thought about, an era of mass production and consumption. We created a manifesto stating our rally against this way of living. One of our original focuses was the ceramic industry in Stoke-on-Trent. A world class hub of knowledge and skills for hundreds of years was shrivelling at a rapid speed. Makers were considered factory workers not craftsmen. In 2008 we went with Polly to visit the place that was making her work (now closed). We met three ladies (whose names were along the lines of Marjorie, Margaret and Maud) and we watched in awe as the trio, using an array of unusual tools, transformed clay into the most detailed and intricate ceramic flowers. They had all been working doing this job since they were 14. They were now all 60+. One had retired twice. When we expressed our wonder at their skill, they brushed the compliments away, they did factory work, as did their mothers, sisters, aunts etc. They thought we were the talented ones as we had been to university and had our own businesses. So. to surmise a very long answer, it’s because of the history and skills of the Marjorie, Margaret and Maud’s of Britain that we seek out to continue this heritage.


How do you source your gorgeous stock?

Trade shows form a large part of our sourcing, we go to the main ones but also love a ‘rookie’ show. The more specific the better, this is where you will find the treasure. We also use every modern buyers friend, Instagram. Combined with trawling the internet for the minutest mention of traditional manufacturing.

Provenance is a enormous consideration for us. We will only sell jewellery and greetings cards that are UK made. However it’s not all British, we look to Germany for wooden toys, Poland for Christmas decorations, Portugal for shoes. Environment, sustainability and worker welfare are also factors, a product is truly scrutinised before being welcomed into the Luna & Curious offering.


As well as stocking wares from independents, what do you create in-house?

The independent shop thrives in East London and our neighbours and us were all competing for the same brands. We got a bit fed up with this and in 2016 as we celebrated ten years of Luna & Curious we pledged to return to our roots as designers and make many more products ourselves.

Since then we have made our own scented candles, with their ceramic pots made in Stoke-on-Trent, candles in Wiltshire and boxes in Hull. Our range of Scottish-made women’s and kid’s knitwear is growing year on year. Plus we have launched our own womenswear, which, you guessed it... is all made in the UK. Next on the list is our own children’s clothing!


You’re just about to launch your latest womenswear collection, which sounds very exciting… can you tell us more?

For our latest womenswear collection we have partnered with Making for Change Social Enterprise. This is a joint venture in garment manufacturing between London College of Fashion and HMP Downview, which provides training in fashion production skills and accredits participants with industry-recognised qualifications; offering a route away from re-offending whilst simultaneously addressing the skills shortage within the UK fashion manufacturing industry.


Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?

The most sold product is a Hooray! card by Wrap. This is quite cheering, means there is plenty to say Hooray about! Our navy and orange spotted shirt dress went down a storm last year and we had to get more made fast. The Luna & Curious customer isn’t shy with their fashion, our candy pink rib knit is the bestselling women’s jumper.

P9054332LO (1).jpg

Which is your can't live without product?

Kaoru: Our rib knit jumpers, they keep me warm throughout the winter.`

Polly: Our range of scented candles, it was really enjoyable to link up all the elements required to produce the items in the UK.

Rheanna: Holztiger wooden animals, my son’s collection is constantly growing (I say his! I mean mine).


What do you enjoy most about running Luna & Curious?

The people. We have fantastic women working at Luna & Curious which makes it everyday fun. Everyone works so hard, we are very fortunate. We eat well too!


What has been your career highlight (so far)?

Moving to Calvert Avenue in 2010. After two written proposals and a 90 minute interview, Tower Hamlets offered us the lease on these premises. In fact it was too big for us for a few years, but it offered us an exciting future with the ability to expand. In 2018, we officially ran out of space!


You have some rather lovely neighbours too, is community important to you?

Hugely. As a business based in the Boundary Estate, we believe we have an obligation to be part of the community, respecting the residents. This is echoed in many of the businesses on Calvert Avenue.

Luna & Curious is a founding member of the East End Trades Guild, a body that has come together to ensure a future for independent businesses in East London. The work done by the Guild in the face of rising rents and rates is fantastic.


Do you have any top tips/advice for those thinking of starting their own store?

It’s really dull...but do your sums. Do a REALISTIC cash flow, make sure that six months down the line there is still money in the pot. Plus don’t try and do everything all at once. We’ve seen many businesses come and go over the years and the overriding reason is that the initial financial outlay on the shop fit and stock has been too much and eventually it drowns the business.

Find Luna & Curious at 24-26 Calvert Ave, London E2 7JP.

Photography: Caroline Rowland

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

This month 91 Magazine talks to Charlotte Martin, owner of lifestyle store Cuemars – a verdant oasis of beauty and calm tucked away on London’s Brick Lane. 

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

How would you describe the essence of Cuemars?

Cuemars is an attitude. We curate with a conscience, and eschew trends in favour of a more timeless style. Our philosophy is founded on conscious curation and aesthetically-engaging designs. At the heart of Cuemars is the old adage, ‘buy less, buy better’. We house many independent brands that produce durable and culturally-relevant pieces – be it clothing, lifestyle, or homeware goods. We also love plants and all things botanical, and this has become a distinctive feature of Cuemars.

Where does the name come from?

Cuemars is a Persian myth. In the tale, everything is created from Cuemars, and everything has a bond with one another. We wanted to have a name that creates the vibe of things being inter-connected  - nature, our lives, our time…

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

How did Cuemars come about?

It started with the vision that every purchasing choice can make a difference. We are committed to honest sustainability through our supply chain, and we seek to create a positive buying experience.  From sourcing to distribution, we scrutinise every process and every supplier before it reaches our customers.

What’s the ethos behind your business?

We pursue cultural significance, driven by a belief that good design is not synonymous with trends or fashion. Our focus is based on our conviction that nature is universally influential in what good design should be; a symbiosis with the environment. We see our name not as a product, but a story, and our designs are inspired by history, natural and organic forms. 

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars
Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

What inspires you?

Our sources of inspiration are many! We love the ancient world of mythology, antique art, nature, contemporary art, mathematics, geometry, music and literature.

How valuable is the online community to your work?

Social media tools offer great potential to reach and connect with an audience. It’s great to be so directly involved with our community.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

How did you go about designing and styling the store?

Our first shop was on Hackney Road, where we stayed for two years. In August 2018, we moved into the vibrant Brick Lane, in the heart of Shoreditch. Our new shop is in the Truman Brewery, which is a great spot for us as it brings both locals and tourists to see the street art and vintage market.

The space is not as big as we really needed, so we had to be creative and use it in a clever way. We chose an adjustable shelving system that we can modify (which is great as our range tends to change during the year). We also have an outdoor courtyard, which is visible from the main street, so that is used for display and allows us to attract people into the shop.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars
Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars
Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

How do you source your products?

We don’t have a fixed system for this - we browse on Instagram, Pinterest, design fairs, and we contact independent makers that match our core values of sustainability, design and production with a conscience.

What are the joys of working as an independent retailer – and what are the challenges?

I really enjoy being an independent retailer, the best bits are meeting and collaborating with talented people and being part of a local community. Our daily tasks are very diverse, we never get bored! The challenges include often wishing to have more hours in the day (it’s hard to get everything done and we often run over time)!

How do you juggle an online business with a physical shop?

Our 2019 resolution is to get better at the online side of things - at the moment we find it a bit difficult to get the traffic we would like. We use, for example, the online platform Trouva, which allows us to reach a wider range of clients.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars
Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

How do you approach marketing and PR?

At the moment, we mainly contact bloggers that match our ethos and style, in order to develop our community and expand our audience.

What are your favourite products or bestsellers?

We have many! But our three bestsellers are: our collection of botanical prints, our jewellery made from recycled sterling silver, and our plants are very popular.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars
Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cuemars

Any advice for aspiring independent store owners?

Always try to plan your day ahead as the tasks are usually multiple and very varied. You will never get bored, but you do need to be organised!

Before you go, are there any future developments in the pipeline?

As plant-lovers, we are excited to be opening our new oxygen room next month - it’s going to be a room just for green plants, located next to the shop.

Find Cuemars at 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL

Photography: Caroline Rowland

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Choosing Keeping

Peek into Choosing Keeping’s stunning new store in London’s Seven Dials, beautifully curated with diaries, pens and dreamy papers and you could be forgiven for thinking that this was just a stylish stationery stockist. However, delve a little deeper, behind the exterior, and you’ll find that Choosing Keeping is an independent stationery lovers’ paradise, with true heart - and a homage to almost-forgotten trades.


Choosing Keeping opened in 2012, in its former home on Columbia Road, with the aim of bringing together charming stationery products, that were “under threat of extinction possibly because they had become under-appreciated, or thought of as old-fashioned, or too expensive in relation to cheaply made in China alternatives”, owner, Julia explains.


Identifying that national culture can be lost when items, like these, stop being produced, and that as consumers, we should do what we can to ensure that these items - and the memories they are attached to - prevent being lost, Choosing Keeping is keeping alive these old traditions.


“The green Pentel R50 which sat in the pen pot by your grandfather’s telephone, the Japanese Nori glue you used to craft in school, all of these iconic objects combined are part of our cultural memory and therefore very important,” Choosing Keeping’s owner says. “The fact that each day such companies cease to manufacture in France, Italy, Germany … is a tragedy.”


Of course, it’s not just the item itself or the history associated with it. Choosing Keeping are also concerned about the people behind the product too - with companies closing down, livelihoods being lost and the impact on the villages whose factories close. A sobering thought as many of us tick off our Christmas gift list.


Since 1st November 2018, Choosing Keeping has closed its doors for the final time at 128 Columbia Road and have begun a new chapter, at 21 Tower Street in Seven Dials. With a new location, the Choosing Keeping team took the opportunity to think about their new space, designing their own made-to-measure furniture, as well as all their gorgeous pen display pots (made by Steve Harrison). Staying loyal to their ethos of enjoying something for as long as possible, their new store includes plenty of wood, bringing warmth and softness to the aesthetics, and perfectly complimenting the sensuality of the opulent stationery on offer.


Given that Choosing Keeping’s focus is on bringing together items that could be forgotten about, the team work hard to source the best paper, art and office goods. This inspiration comes from watching films, travelling, chatting with suppliers and reading catalogues from cover to cover to find those items that should be enjoyed for many more years to come.


Needless to say, there’s not any visits to gift fairs or trade shows for the Choosing Keeping team, instead it’s all about research and connection to find those almost-forgotten gems. One business they’ve built a relationship with over the last six years is German penmaker, Kaweco, who have been manufacturing pens since 1883. Choosing Keeping now have the largest range in a bricks and mortar UK shop.


As well as carefully sourcing stationery products from across the world, the store also create their own items too, such as their four colour ballpoint pens, Italian leatherette notebooks, hardback notebooks and handmade watercolour paper, of which many are among their bestsellers.


Needless to say, Choosing Keeping is a one-of-a-kind kind of stationery store, encouraging us shoppers to give thought when buying (not only about the product itself but about the makers and the community surrounding them) and then to take care, preserve and respect whatever it is we’ve purchased. In a nutshell: choosing to keep the memories, the heritage and people in work from independents, rather than buying mass-produced items. A visit to this beautiful store definitely gives us food for thought…

Find Choosing Keeping at 21 Tower Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9NS.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Hero

This month, 91’s Shopkeeper Spotlight falls on Hero, in Stockbridge, Hampshire. We talk to owner Laura Turner about the ethos behind her fashion and lifestyle business, nurturing a creative community and the importance of enjoying the little things in life...

Hi Laura! How would you describe Hero to someone discovering it for the first time?

Hero is a bricks and mortar, fashion and lifestyle shop with a passion for creativity. The name derives from our mission to stock wardrobe ‘heroes’ - from jeans and cashmere, to velvet jumpsuits and statement jewellery. We work with brands that we feel have meaning and heart behind their story, and strive to ensure everything you see in the shop is something really special.

As well as the retail element of Hero as a store and online, we also have a strong creative community around us, with regular creative workshops and meet-ups to encourage this. Later this year and into 2019 we are also launching a co-working space, so creatives can get together and enjoy the space to connect with each other, or simply get away from their own desk for a change of scene!

LT outside.jpg

What inspired you to set up Hero? 

I always knew I wanted to have my own business, and having grown up in an entrepreneurial family, it felt really natural to me to take risks and be in control of my own destiny. Having a shop or being in retail was never something that I’d set my sights on, but after a corporate career in the city, I knew that such a life was not for me. My curiosity about whether I could run my own business had never left me, so after writing a blog and growing in confidence I took the leap to open Hero. Even then, I knew that it would be more than just a shop on a local high street - I wanted to reach more people, create an impact, and build a brand. 

Since initially setting up Hero, the business has evolved many times and that’s something I have always been comfortable with. It keeps me on my toes, and also means I can adapt to the economic climate and keep things interesting for my audience. Hero is about the whole experience and how walking into the shop, visiting the website, or attending a creative workshop should always be inspiring.


What did you do before setting up Hero?

Hero was set up in 2014 and prior to that, I had been a busy stay-at-home mum with my two daughters. Earlier in my career, I’d worked in marketing within financial services. I’d started writing a blog as my own creative outlet when my daughters were quite tiny – I made many valuable connections through this and it really boosted my confidence to open a shop.


What is the ethos behind your business?

My main focus for Hero is that when purchasing something, it should always be worth it – it should make you feel incredible. This applies whether that’s a pair of jeans that you will wear every day, a candle that you light each night once the children have gone to bed, or a statement necklace that transforms any outfit you wear. I believe in having fewer things, but things that you will love today and treasure forever.

So the idea behind Hero was to curate a collection of everyday items that we all need, and to elevate them into something special to be relished – a way of enjoying the little things. I had been a stay-at-home mum for six years before launching Hero and although I had a fairly standard ‘casual uniform’, I always wanted to make this as nice as possible. And if I had a notebook or box of matches, I wanted them to be really lovely. Enjoying my personal style and image always meant a lot as an expression of myself, so it seemed natural to extend this to my business.

There are so many areas of our lives that are oversaturated - there is so much noise just through everyday living, that to visit somewhere calm and welcoming is a refreshing change, and that’s what I aim to achieve in Hero.


What inspires you?

So many things around me - I find inspiration in the local deli, magazines, a lovely pub or hotel, and in discovering new towns and new experiences. I’m also inspired by the services that other people provide which raise them above and beyond the norm, as I’m always striving to do things better and give people an experience that surpasses expectations.

How would you describe your style? 

Classic, cool + understated. 


How valuable is the online community to your work?

Blogging and social media offer a place where I can connect with a wider community than our local customer-base. I’ve found that being generous with your time and knowledge builds trust and loyalty, which means people come back time-after-time and enthusiastically move with you as the business evolves.


How did you go about designing and styling the store?

I love creating interior spaces, and the Hero shop gives me the perfect backdrop. After experimenting with different colours and schemes, I found that, for me, white is the best for retail - it means that the spotlight is on your stock and it’s not detracted from by crazy interiors!

The interior space affects how people feel, so the way that the shop is laid out is no accident. I’ve chosen strong, yet subtle colours for the front of the shop (the beautiful Calamine Pink by Farrow & Ball) offset with a charcoal wall inside. I like to be brave with style but not overwhelming, so there is no distraction from the retail area.

We’re very lucky as our building is really old and full of character, so I’ve been sympathetic to this with the furniture, but have also created contrast by introducing contemporary pieces, with different textures to add warmth and comfort. It’s designed as a journey of discovery around the shop, leading from one point of interest to the next.


How do you source your products?

I’m always working on discovering new brands and pieces to sell at Hero, and have a strict criteria. I love working with brands that have an authentic story behind them. I’ve travelled to Paris and Copenhagen in the past, and now use social media to find brands. There’s a balance between finding items that you love personally, and pieces that you know are going to be loved by everyone else. I am also conscious of quantities, and don’t buy too many of one piece so that people are buying something more individual. I love the exclusivity of finding a brand that isn’t over-distributed - it means I can keep offering collections that are original.


Do you have a creative background? 

I’m completely self-taught. I had no experience of retail, fashion or design, but I have a strong eye for detail that is instinctive, so can visualise how things will look and work together. Over the past four years, I have honed this to become more confident in my ability to curate Hero’s collections.


How do you find juggling an online business with a physical shop?

My main focus is always primarily on the physical shop - it’s really important to concentrate on what makes the business successful and then bolt-on the other parts which can then act to elevate it.


How do you approach marketing and PR? 

Less is more! My approach is not about gaining more and more followers or lots of coverage. It’s about communicating clearly to the ones I have, on a regular basis. My email marketing list is the most important and powerful resource I have. I connect with customers and build relationships and loyalty, without selling. There are times of course, that I talk about products or workshops, but it’s more about inviting people to read about these and hopefully build excitement or intrigue.


What are Hero’s favourite products or bestsellers?

Our best-sellers are always the classic wardrobe staples – such as denim and cashmere, plus the Connock London Kukui oil beauty collection. 

Any advice for aspiring independent store owners?

Get the foundations of your business secure. Make sure you have systems and clear processes set up, so that the fundamentals of your business can be run with, or without you. This means you can then focus on being creative with your marketing and buying. When you’re buying, go with your gut instinct and don’t be led by fads or quick sellers. And be crystal-clear on your brand values and stick to them - it means that as you evolve, your audience will follow without confusion.


Tell us about the Creative Gatherings held at Hero, they sound great!

The Creative Gatherings are a really informal meet-up once a month for anyone who is in business, or perhaps working on a project that they hope may turn into a business one day. There’s no agenda, it’s simply a supportive get-together, to have a chat and a coffee! I’d like to develop this in the future to extend it to membership, and also invite contacts to use our co-working space that’s launching in 2019.

Creative workshops at Hero have always been right at the heart of the brand, and the foundation of the community around it. Workshops provide the perfect platform for inviting people in and nurturing a relationship. When you bring like-minded people together, they want to share experiences and this is how a community naturally grows. I invite experts in social media, blogging and business to share their knowledge. Groups are kept really small and informal so that it’s easy to ask questions and chat. I think the digital world is brilliant, but I honestly don’t think you can beat sitting round a table with people and learning from them!


Any future developments in the pipeline?

I’m really excited about 2019! It sees the launch of the Hero co-working space. This is a welcoming space at the shop for creatives to enjoy and work for the day, or to hire for their own creative workshops.

Find Hero at Nomads House, High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Long Barn

Located in picturesque Alresford close to the historic town of Winchester in Hampshire, Long Barn is far more than just a carefully curated store filled with the wares of craftspeople and the farm’s renowned lavender - it’s a destination waiting to be explored, with a cafe and garden too.

We chatted to owners Richard Norris and Jane Marsden to talk about their love of lavender, growing from a market stall to having a lifestyle store and providing experiences…


Hi Richard and Jane, first thing’s first: when and why did you decide to open Long Barn?

Long Barn started with Richard’s love of lavender and desire to create a range of products that do justice to this wonderful plant. I (Jane), was a former marketing director, and joined Richard in the early days and together we created Long Barn as it is today. Our home, garden store and cafe has been a favoured destination in Alresford since 2009. We wanted to create a shop which put the joy back into shopping and we like to think of our Barn as a beautiful place to come and enjoy a couple of hours relaxing with friends and family - somewhere we’d like to go ourselves in our free time!


What had you both done before? Did any of these skills help?

Richard’s background is in accountancy and teaching but from the age of ten his heart has always been devoted to plants. The knowledge of accountancy is of obvious help; the teaching was part-time and helped greatly in setting up the business and gradually moving to full-time as Long Barn could sustain a salary. My background is in marketing, originally with a drinks brands – both alcoholic and tea, later with olives and baby food. Large corporate employers taught the need for rigour in reporting and margin; smaller employers required a really grounded approach. Both have been useful in the growth stages of Long Barn.


Long Barn is a destination - with a shop, cafe and gardens - did you always want it to be somewhere people could enjoy spending a couple of hours?

Long Barn has grown so much, from a much loved stall at London farmers markets to our first beautiful little store on the high street to now, a 3000+ square foot standalone oak barn surrounded by over 5000 lavender plants. When we first moved to the barn, we wanted to create a convivial atmosphere where people could spend quality time – in a way, the kind of place you take visiting friends after Sunday lunch.

Our vision has always been to grow with our audience and last summer has seen the original barn extended. We gathered a raft of craftspeople – designers, artists, furniture makers, sign writers, builders and carvers, to create a convivial space to tell the Long Barn story. You will find gardening, homewares, gifts, vintage and food all now under one, slightly longer roof!


How would you describe Long Barn’s style?

Our style reflects seasonal trends to some degree, but we tend to take our cues from the splendour of the English countryside in the main. We believe in a simple, honest approach to design, where quality and beauty are intrinsic. For us home is a place to express your tastes and really enjoy your time - be it through dressing a table for an impromptu lunch with family to creating a garden that looks stunning in every season - our barn is the place to discover a carefully curated collection of beautiful home and garden goods. We like to think of Long Barn as a one stop shop for the considered home.


You're passionate about involving local craftspeople - can you tell us a little about the wares of a few you stock?

We love to champion craftsmanship both at home and away and have always been passionate about products with purpose. By sharing handpicked handmade goods with our customers we are linking to our values, which are rooted in provenance and heritage. We are proud to have a assembled a collective of makers to delight our customers with. Highlights this season include Rosie Brewer, who trained at Camberwell and makes exceptional hand turned, sustainable kitchenware.


How do you source your gorgeous stock?

Instagram is a fantastic tool for finding interesting and up and coming brands as well as sustainable makers and talented craftspeople. In addition we go to all the shows and have a few trusted suppliers we always turn to for our core range. We also get approached quite a bit! A lot of our customers are the creative sort and love to share with us their latest finds.

This August, we invited designers, makers and food producers to showcase their wares at our Barn for a chance to be stocked for the Christmas season which proved a wonderful way to find new creative talent.


As well as stocking artisan makers, you also create your own lavender products too. Why do you love lavender so much?

At the root of Long Barn is a true love of lavender. All of this came from Richard’s love of gardening and history. An article in a magazine about the history of English commercial lavender-growing in the 18th and 19th centuries sparked the classic ‘light bulb’ moment in Richard. From that moment he knew that he wanted to farm lavender. Selling lavender products at London farmers’ markets had a curious link to the past which really interested him.

At Long Barn we sell the range of lavender products that Richard created with the help of aromatherapists, soap-makers and perfumers. On the plant sales terrace, alongside old fashioned rose varieties and other classically English garden plants we sell one of the most extensive ranges of lavender plants in the country. Richard loves introducing customers to lesser known varieties such as Folgate, Grosso and Sussex.


What do you enjoy most about running the Barn?

Greeting our lovely customers everyday! It sounds trite but really, they create the warm ambiance at the heart of the barn as much as we do. Even when we’re busy there’s always an opportunity to take a moment to have a nice chat and pass the time with a friendly face.


What has been your Long Barn career highlights (so far!)?

Too many to mention! However, this year we were finalists for Best Store Design at the Drapers Independent Retailers awards. Always a highlight in the industry calendar, this award recognises inspiring and thriving independent retailers from across the country and we’re thrilled to be included in such good company.

How have you balanced running Long Barn - given that it's a cafe, store and gardens? Usually people can only manage just one!

As anyone who has run their own business will say, you wear all sorts of hats during any given day! We have each worked in almost every part of the business at various times, and can both make great coffee, whip up a spreadsheet and tend to the plants with aplomb.

However, at this scale it would be impossible to cover everything just ourselves and we are joined by a fantastic team of shop and café staff; cooks, baristas, merchandisers, designers, gardeners, site and maintenance staff, bookkeepers and stock controllers. We are a sum of our parts, and it’s down to a lot of very dedicated and talented individuals to make Long Barn what it is: a really fantastic place to be.


Do you have any top tips / advice for those thinking of starting their own lifestyle store?

You have to love retail! And the principles of good shopkeeping. We feel that despite an increasingly clicks driven market, physical shops continue to thrive as hubs of enterprise, experience and community, but only if they are really good. What makes a really good shop? It’s a place that people feel something for. It’s a place that serves as a beacon, the go-to destination for a unique and interesting experience.

Shopping is an experience first and foremost, and for most people, a leisure pursuit. So consider what makes somewhere a place people choose to spend precious time, as well as money and come back again. It tends to be shops that offer a distinct point of difference - a sense of discovery through creative display, beautifully edited buying, exceptional service, a convivial atmosphere - make a destination standout from the rest. Oh, and you have to love people, that’s a given!


Autumn's now here and we bet it's especially beautiful at Long Barn - what’s happening over the coming months?

Autumn is a short but sweet season here at Long Barn - we invite our customers to join us in welcoming the most mellow months of the year. Traditionally a celebration of abundance, harvest is the time to share in the spoils of the summer with loved ones. Stop by our relaxing cafe for a good catch up with friends over coffee and homemade cake or stay longer and enjoy a hearty lunch with family - it’s always a joy to be able to come together and delight in the tastes of the season.

Long Barn, The Old Sheep Fair, Bishops Sutton Rd, Alresford, Hampshire, SO24 9EJ

Photography: Laura Brown

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Dowse

Located in the heart of Brighton’s vibrant North Laine (brimming with independent stores and cafes), Dowse proudly flies the flag for indie design.Creating jewellery and prints in-house and sourcing wares, with care and consideration, from designers across the world (especially from the super-stylish Scandi countries), this beautifully curated shop offers thoughtful design which is accessible to everyone.We spoke to owner Susannah Dowse to hear more…


Hi Susannah! First things first, why did you decide to call your store Dowse?

Dowse is my family name and the name I designed under before opening the shop. The name comes from dowsing - a technique for searching for water, minerals, or anything invisible. The name was too perfect not to use for a shop where we search out and showcase emerging designers and makers.


Why did you start the store? 

I’d been working from a home studio for many years and had decided that I wanted to get out and interact with the world again! I was originally going to get a space in a shared studio, but then I begun to think about having a studio that was open to the public and I could showcase the work of other designers alongside my own.

I live in nearby Hove, and one day a shop in my neighbourhood, that had been boarded up for years had a note in the window saying it had recently been renovated and was now available. The timing was too perfect. So I decided to take the space and opened a month later. So it was less about a big plan and more about taking an opportunity that arose and running with it. I ran the shop in the Hove space for five years and have now recently moved to the North Laine area of Brighton. 


What did you do before starting Dowse?

I have quite a varied career history. I did a very conceptual and theoretical Fine Art degree, but that hadn’t really been a good fit for me. So when I graduated I drifted a bit, djing, designing & making clothes, basically indulging all my other interests. Eventually I pulled those experiences together and began working freelance in fashion, working for many different kinds of clients creating garment samples, surface print design and illustration. I also worked with a textile recycling charity as the head designer of a clothing range made from recycled textiles, with this my interest in sustainability and ethics in design developed.

This lead to a period lecturing in art colleges on sustainability in design. Alongside this, I had a friend who is a jeweller and I began working with her on a range of jewellery. And it was from here that Dowse, as it now exists, developed.


How would you describe your style? 

I’ve always had a love of abstract and pop art, mid-century interiors and the clean fluid lines of the Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics. Geometry, simple lines and forms feed my aesthetic and influence what I design and also what I’m attracted to in the work of the other designers that I showcase in the shop. 


As well as making Dowse’s jewellery and art prints, you also stock wares from others. How do you source your products?

Many of the things I find are from keeping an eye on the usual suspects like Pinterest and Instagram. Getting out there and not just visiting the big trade shows is important to find new exciting people, they’re normally found at smaller art and design markets.

I also go to Copenhagen every year and discover wonderful things every time I go. I don’t stock things that have been mass manufactured in the Far East. I just can’t trust that someone hasn’t been exploited in a factory and that doesn't sit well with me. So everything we sell is made with care and consideration on a smaller scale by the designers and makers.


What are your favourite finds so far?

One of my most significant Copenhagen discoveries was Studio Arhoj. A ceramic studio I started stocking about four years ago and I believe I was the first shop in the UK to carry their range. They're now much more established and have a real cult following. I send their pieces all over the world, as people hunt down their special and unique designs and glazes. The recent revitalisation of ceramics by the new wave of young makers has been wonderful to see. And it seems there are quite a few ceramic addicts out there!

One of our current lines that’s a big favourite are the hand made ceramics by Quartier Ceramics, made in Lisbon by one man, Romain, at his potters wheel. I can't wait till our latest delivery from him arrives next month! I also love the well designed, simple and British made wares of Studio Wald. They make great paper goods and a lovely flower press. 


You're clearly passionate about what you do. What do you love most about your chosen vocation?

As a designer, being able to interact directly with my customers and see their response (good or bad!) to new designs is great.

As a shopkeeper I really enjoy being able to tell the story of the person behind the objects we sell. Highlighting the process that goes in to the making of these beautiful things by an individual rather than a big company. Supporting emerging designers and sustainable practice is a big part of why I do what I do. Finding good design that's actually affordable and not out of reach is also something that's a challenge that I love. I'm on a bit of a mission to make good and thoughtful design accessible to everyone. 


If you could choose just one product from the store right now, what would it be?

I love the sculptural forms of the Hana vase series by Arhoj. One will be making it home before too long. 

Oh, they are gorgeous! Do you have any advice for other people thinking of setting up a shop?

Make what you sell matter, be passionate about it. This will carry you through the tricky times.


You have such a lovely Instagram feed - how does social media help your business?

I love Instagram. It's inspiring and impressive what amazing feeds people create. I wish I had more time to concentrate on it, it can be an art form in itself. It is really important to reach the right audience for what you do, so for any small business or designer it's as a really great tool to do that. 

Your new location in the heart of Brighton’s North Laine is renowned for its many independent stores. How does it feel to be part of the community?

I love Brighton. It's got a vibrancy to it that you don't often get in cities this size. New people are always arriving and so it's constantly evolving. I don't think there's many places with this many indies in such numbers. It's great to be a part that community. 


What has been your Dowse career highlights so far?

There have been many great moments, mixed with challenging ones! Moving to a new shop space after five years of running a shop, that in itself felt quite a big achievement to do on my own with no investors - remaining truly independent. 

As a designer, it was a real highlight being commissioned by The Design Museum to create a collection of jewellery exclusively for them to accompany an exhibition on architect Louis Kahn. 

Photography: Emma Croman

Dowse, 27 Gloucester Rd, Brighton / Follow on Instagram

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Casa González & González

Stocking functional objects that make the everyday that little more lovely, Casa González & González, in Madrid, is owned by childhood friends María Rosa Amor González (who worked in museums and art galleries) and Javier Carrasco González (a former interior designer), who share the same values and passion about design and slow living. We spoke with them to talk quotidian style, community and beautiful brooms...


Why did you open your store?

After both living and working abroad for several years, we met again in Madrid. It was over coffee that we discovered common thoughts and values, and the fact that we couldn’t easily find timeless products frequently in our daily routines, when living abroad, so we thought it was an interesting idea to open and gather most of them in one store.


How would you describe your style?

We like to inspire our customers with our quotidian objects to make their day-to-day more conscious and functional. We think the atmosphere our objects give during a specific moment of the day, may transform a daily routine to be a more happy and pleasant act. We mainly look for timeless, genuine and functional products with a story behind them. We like restrained and functional looks. We do not opt for pricey or sophisticated pieces or just aesthetically-pleasing items - they must also accomplish a function.


How do you source your products?

Most of our objects have been used and tested years before opening our shop. Factory, workshop or fair visits are other ways to source our products. We also surf the Internet and take into account friends' and customer recommendations. Among others, our favourites are the Marseille soaps and body brushes and we are in love with our “malgas” (a typical object made of cork).


You’re passionate about being shopkeepers – why is this important to you?

We try to offer a unique shopping experience in a retail space that reflects our vision, personality and aim to make things better. We do believe that small stores like ours have an uncertain future, but on the other hand there are more and more consumers becoming aware of the wealth that this type of business provides to society.


If you could just choose one product from the store – what would it be?

Well, maybe the most simple and useful products because they sum up our functional essence. We would like to show that a broom or a cleaning cloth can be as beautiful and useful as other key items in the home.


What advice do you have for other people thinking of setting up a shop?

The first years when starting a business are really tough, so it is very useful to draft a realistic business plan to keep your head above water during this time.


You're currently working on building your online store - how has that process been?

We hope to be ready very soon. Although we prefer to go step by step, we like sharing ideas to add to the future of our business.


Does your beautiful Madrid location inspire your chosen wares? 

We like to feel part of a growing community and our neighbourhood is achieving a common atmosphere, through the stores, as well as the people who live in the area. But, we do not consider it essential when we make our objects’ selection.


What has been your González and González career highlights so far?

We cannot be more happy to have the actual response and warmness of our customers, suppliers and social media followers. They are a great support for us. At this early stage of our career we hope to keep making things well and better and become an established business but only time will tell…


Casa González & González, Pelayo 68, Madrid / Follow on Instagram

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman

When a shop became available next door to their beautiful New York coffee shop (with a French flair - named Maman), Elisa Marshall and Ben Sormonte, saw an opportunity to create a unique retail environment, bridging the gap between traditional long-term storefronts and trendy retail pop ups, and affords beloved brands to have a retail presence in New York. The Shopkeepers' Paula Flynn chats to Elisa of Marche Maman to talk creating a lifestyle experience, curating beautiful products and what it's like to have Oprah as a fan...

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

What motivated you to open Marche Maman? 

I think with the Marche space specifically, it started for us when we had so many retail brands contacting us at Maman to open a café within their shops. From high end fashion brands to tech brands, we were getting many inquiries for those looking to incorporate food and drink into their shops. Everyone was looking for a more ‘lifestyle’ experience and ultimately, food and drink drive traffic. None felt like a good brand fit for us. We also had friends with brands from France wanting to open a pop-up near us in the U.S. and rent was extremely high. Not to mention you also have to look after interiors, merchandising, staffing, utilities, marketing, PR and most importantly getting people in the door & generating foot traffic!

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

The space beside our Soho location became available, which also had a beautiful garden, and we were trying to be creative, as to what we could do with it from an expansion point of view. Then the lightbulb came on, and we decided on a co-retailing Marche and creating a community of brands who share our same customer and concept.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Do you have prior retail experience? 

I grew up with the retail bug and started in retail at a denim store on the day of my 16th birthday when I was finally able to legally work. Over 10 years, I went from sales associate, to managing, to buying, then to merchandising and PR & marketing for international retail brands. I had much more experience in retail then in hospitality and actually never had a serving job prior to opening Maman, so it was evident retail would somehow come back around…it was just waiting for the perfect time & place!

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Who designed the shop? 

Myself and my partner Ben look after all the design for the shops.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

What are you best known for? 

At Maman, we are most known for our nutty chocolate chip cookies (Oprah named them one of her favorite things in 2017) but on the marché side of things, I think we are most known for hard to find imported French items. From baskets & flatware imported from the south of France to our children’s vendor who brings in the most beautiful unique one of a kind kids pieces, we have a very loyal customer who always come to us for hard to find gifts.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Where and how are products sourced and made? 

We source the brands by what we love, trying to keep them French when possible, and in the mentality that the customers are likely coming for lunch or breakfast so what would they buy while doing that. With experience we have noticed that high price point items that are a sought-after purchase don’t work as well. Our customers rather come for brunch with their friends, and leave with a bracelet for themselves, a beautiful kids toy for a gift and a mug for their Maman. We like to offer small beautiful and unique ‘easy’ purchases.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

What makes your shop unique? 

There is nothing else out there like what we do and I think what makes it unique is that it elevates the dining & shopping experience. Not to mention there is always something new as our vendors rotate every few months.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Why did you choose the location of this shop? 

Naturally we chose the space as it was attached to our existing café. We knew we had the customer, the need and the foot traffic for retail, something that many stand alone retail shops do not have.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

How has the shop enriched the community? 

Community is everything to us and we really owe our success and growth to our surrounding community – family, friends, our staff, and customers. I think Marche Maman and our concept really defines community and we wanted to bring that world and concept to life with our new location. Our ethos here is to bring together like-minded, amazing brands and people who all share the same customer and clientele.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

We created a space that allows small businesses to flourish in a like-minded high traffic environment, and at the same time, created a dynamic multi-sensory space for our customers, combining food, florals, jewellery, fragrance, kids’ items, and home decor. What girl doesn’t love those things!?

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

How has the shop evolved since opening? 

Our shop evolves monthly, so it is always exciting for us and our customers. We have had an ice cream shop, florists, teas, linens, home goods, bath and body and so much more!

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Who are your customers? 

I think Marche Maman attracts people who love beautiful things – from fashion to home, to food and even pretty coffee cups, attention to detail and curating all things beautifully naturally attracts a like-minded clientele. Especially being in Soho, I feel there is a higher concentration of those who appreciate this. We want to create an environment where everything you see, touch, smell, and taste is memorable, beautiful, and of course delicious!

Our customers are primarily women, 25 to 40, living and working in the area. We share our Maman clientele so it was interesting to really get a good understanding on who that customer is and source brands to collaborate with that they would also love!

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

What inspires you? 

I take inspiration from everywhere, from a conversation with a stranger to a sign on the street corner. I am a very creative person and always have something brewing in my mind so I am always looking for inspiration in my everyday life and in the small things.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. 

was a buyer, merchandiser, interior designer, event planner, baker & caterer…and those are all still my titles today! Growing up, I never had that ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’  kind of thing. It was always a mixture of a hundred things, from a fashion designer, to a baker, to an event planner, an interior designer or the next Martha Stewart. I found myself juggling numerous ‘careers’ and passions with not enough hours in the day to do everything that I loved. I couldn’t find the perfect job, so I had to invent it, and put it all together under one roof (or six at this point).

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC
Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Did you follow any areas of study or apprenticeship? 

I started my studies in fashion business, taking many courses in retail business, PR and marketing. That path led me to numerous jobs in retail starting from the bottom & working my way up.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? 

Don’t follow the crowd & take risks: Be unique, be different and don’t do what everyone else is doing. I didn’t want to open a regular store, I wanted to build a world for myself where I put together everything I love under one roof and interact with amazing customers who enjoy it as much as I do. I know too many people who settle for where they are and jobs they don’t enjoy because they are afraid to go out, take risks & pursue their dreams. It will not come to you and you have to not be afraid to go get it!

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Minimise negativity: It is so easy to be negative, judge others and complain about issues and life without trying to fix it yourself. Though not always an easy task, I try to avoid these people and surround myself with supporters. My time is so precious these days and I don’t need people in my life who only see the negative & bring me down. I want to only surround myself and spend my time on things that inspire me to move forward.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Go with the flow: I love to plan, have things all lined up, goals to hit and things to work towards, but more and more I am realising how in the big picture of life, how unrealistic that is. You don’t know what tomorrow will hold or what opportunities will be presented. Goals of course are always important, but you have to be open to the fact that things may not go exactly the way you have planned it – that’s ok. You can’t predict the future so don’t get too caught up and waste too much time planning for later.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Find your passion: There is nothing better for me than waking up every day getting to do what I love & doing it beside the person I love. I was struggling for a while, as I couldn’t pin point that one thing I wanted to do, or that ‘perfect’ job, so in reality I knew I had to create it. I had to get my hands dirty in so many different industries and various jobs until I was able to really shape my path, identify my strengths and weaknesses & ultimately figure out what I liked and didn’t like. I interned at countless jobs, took on various opportunities and was always hungry to test the waters. College tuitions, a long resume & years later, it all fell into place.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

Say “Yes” More: Saying yes opens a world of doors and opportunities that saying no shuts down. People say no so often because of fear, because it’s the easy answer and way out, or because of things they don’t understand. But saying yes to the five minute cup of coffee with a stranger, or taking on a new challenge you never would have tried, could change your life forever, so why not?

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Marche Maman, NYC

My personal motto, and inspiration can be wrapped up in my favourite quote: “I am going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life.”- Elsie De Wolfe.

237 Center Street, New York NY

Find Maman at other five other locations across New York and also in Toronto.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Tailor & Forge

Previously working within the worlds of design, marketing and interiors, boutique owners Scott and Driss brought their extensive experience and passion together to create a bricks and mortar store which oozes style, sustainability and offers affordable wares. 

We chat with the duo from dreamy curated home and lifestyle boutique, Tailor & Forge, located in World Heritage Site, Greenwich Market, to hear about how they turned their online store into a must-visit boutique, sourcing sustainable products and the importance of community…  

Photography: Nuraan Ackers


First things first, why did you set up the store? 

We have a great passion for travel and experiencing the world, so wanted to create a business that helped us to achieve our goal of combining work and travel - essentially running a business online from a laptop anywhere in the world.  

For the first year or so, Tailor & Forge was trading online and started to gain momentum; however we quickly realised that the curated ‘store’ we were creating needed to be fully experienced to allow customers to enjoy the product ranges. We believe that there is a shift starting to happen in online shopping for lifestyle products in that, many of us now want to experience a brand, see and feel product in the real world and then order online. As a result, we decided to create the boutique in the real world with a bricks and mortar store. Starting off as a pop up in Greenwich, Tailor & Forge has now developed into a permanent store on Durnford Street in Greenwich Market. Somewhat of a shift from the original intention of combining work and travel – but all for the best.

tailor and forge

How would you describe Tailor & Forge's style?

Tailor & Forge is all about curating high quality products from the UK and around the world; products which are on-trend, as ethical as possible but also practical and affordable. We believe that there is a limited ‘middle ground’ when it comes to homeware; stores are either top-end or mainstream mass market, often resulting in an inability to purchase due to exclusivity or so run-of-the-mill that the love and excitement of a great interior just disappears. By curating our product range and style through research, we’re able to source high quality, beautiful and affordable products which won't break the bank, but will bring pleasure and joy to customers’ homes.

tailor & forge greenwich

Speaking of your products, how do you source them? Which have been your fave finds so far?

We spend a lot of time researching the fashion, interiors and designer-maker arenas to understand what the latest trends are and what the next season(s) may hold. This could be a certain pantone, a motif or material. There may be one element which resonates, or there may be several, but the intention is to curate the boutique with personality and practicality. We attend industry shows but also keep our ears to the ground by actively seeking out quality products and exceptional designs from a myriad of places - online, print, social media and events. 

Social trends have an influence; with vegan and sustainability being extremely important social topics at the moment and also into the future. It’s great that we are all becoming more aware of our responsibility to the environment so ensuring that we have products made of bamboo, vegan leather and provide products which have come from fair trade producers is extremely important. It can be tempting to purchase mass produced products from certain countries, but often the environment, social responsibility and quality are compromised; something which we do not believe is necessary or justified in todays diverse world.

Tailor and forge greenwich

As well as curating stock from other makers, you also make your own products. Can you tell us a little about them?

After experiencing in our own lives, an emerging pattern of low quality, mass produced furniture which was flooding the market and on the opposite side of the spectrum, high-end furniture which was not only hard to find but was extremely expensive; we felt that there needed to be a much more real and achievable balance between price and quality. We reached out to a Fellow of the Institute of Carpenters - Steve, who has over 40 years’ of experience, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience designing and making beautiful furniture with an all consuming love and passion. We work together to design and make anything from white minimalist contemporary desks to solid reclaimed oak dining tables with inset Corian pieces and unique triangular shelving installations amongst many other things!

Tailor and forge

Do you have any advice for other people thinking of setting up a shop?

Setting up a shop or any business takes dedication and hard work. But for us, it’s all about a genuine passion and love for what you are doing. If your product and your business is created with an authentic joy then this will resonate with your customers and your brand will come to life.

Location and being part of a community are also extremely important; which are two of the main driving factors to why we decided on Greenwich Market for Tailor & Forge. 

tailor and forge london

What other factors made you choose Greenwich to become home to your boutique?

Greenwich is one of those places where you just don’t feel like you are in London! It’s a globally renowned destination which is full of culture and history. At the same time, Greenwich has a strong community where the locals, market traders and tourists all have a great vibe and spirit for the area. It was extremely important that Tailor & Forge was in a location where it could be part of a strong community and also be able to contribute to it. 


If you could just choose one favourite product each from the store - what would it be?

Driss: This is a real tough one….however, my choice would the centrepiece natural handmade rattan day bed, adorned with a variety of cushions and throws filled with texture and colour. 

Scott: At the moment, it’s the valet mirror stand, a super, handmade mirror combining a phone holder, tray and coat hook all in one sleek modern design and hand made from French oak – beautiful, practical and affordable.


What has been your Tailor & Forge career highlights so far?

It has to be meeting amazing people! Meeting fantastic customers and designer-makers, to local traders and other business owners who all want to engage and be part of the local Greenwich community. 


Finally, do you have any exciting plans for the future?

We are constantly evolving the boutique, with new products every one to two weeks; the layout always changes too so there is always something new to discover and experience. As we enter into the summer, Tailor & Forge will shortly be announcing a range of masterclasses including talks on interior design, gardening in the modern home, mindfulness at home and many other topics. So watch this space!

9 Durnford Street, Greenwich Market, London, SE10 9BF, UK.

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.  


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.  


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.  


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.’  


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 

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.  


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!)


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.


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.


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.


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


Shopkeeper Spotlight: Maud's House

91 catches up with Hattie Crook, owner of Yorkshire-based contemporary home store Maud’s House.

Nestled in the north Yorkshire Dales, Maud’s House is a warm and welcoming store with everything one’s heart might desire to make a house a home. Tactile ceramics sit alongside unusual textiles, with artwork and gifts from independent designers and accessories sourced from around the world. Behind the counter and the online store is Hattie Crook, who started Maud’s House in the summer of 2016.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Maud's House

The Skipton store has recently been revamped with a fresh look for Spring and brings together the artistic community feel that Hattie has loved curating. ‘I guess the essence of MH is created by all the people who supply and shop here,’ explains Hattie. ‘Those who share the same or similar aesthetics and outlook as we do, and through this understand each other. And those who appreciate the craft and effort of something handmade, as well as a well-designed printed editorial or beautifully illustrated card.’

Maud's House, independent lifestyle store in Skipton, Yorkshire

The picturesque location of Maud’s House is just one draw of being in Skipton, and Hattie enjoys the independent and creative businesses in the town, as well as the stunning surrounding countryside. ‘I left the city a few years ago now in search of a different approach to working life,’ says Hattie. ‘I knew it was possible to do what you want and most importantly be where you want to be, not restricted by the confines of an office or hectic commute.’  This epiphany is what drew Hattie to opening her own store, creating a free lifestyle that has influenced the aesthetic. ‘In honesty, it was very much a mindful decision, what would be best for our happiness in the long run,’ Hattie admits. ‘There’s an abundance of space to walk and take time out here, a great community of existing and emerging businesses and - most importantly - a network of supportive customers who equally live here to escape their weekday city jobs and enjoy dropping in the shop on a Saturday for a chat and a browse.’

Shopkeeper Spotlight - Maud's House Yorkshire
Hattie of Maud's House lifestyle store

Hattie’s dream was to open a shop that reflected her love for illustration and design and her own personal style, and the items in the store (which was named after Hattie’s great-grandmother) come from a predominantly British design background. ‘I come from a creative background: my dad was a designer and so I had an understanding from an early age of the importance of supporting emerging designers and profiling work I felt had integrity and thought behind it,’ she explains. ‘Alongside Maud’s House, my partner Jonathan runs an illustration and graphic design studio, Little Tail, and between the two of us we are always keeping an eye out for something we’ve not seen before, designers who spark excitement and we feel are a good fit for the shop.’

Maud's House - indie lifestyle store in Skipton, Yorkshire

Hattie is a self-confessed ceramics fan, and now stocks pieces by Laura Bird, Tilly Hemingway, and Alex Sickling, among others, and locally, she has worked with illustrator Olivia Holden, who designed exclusive Christmas cards featuring the shop dog, Lily! ‘A lot of makers and wholesalers approach the shop, but I always message directly the ones I can see working in the shop and online,’ she says.

‘I have a strict rule that we don’t stock anything we don’t love,’ continues Hattie. ‘I always ask myself “would I buy this?” “does it have function?” “would I have this in my home?” “would I give this to someone?’ and if the answer is yes, then it makes it onto our shelves.’ Recent favourites have been the iconic moccasin slippers (‘they are the cosiest clouds to walk around in!’) but Hattie admits that often the small-batch quantities mean that favourite products sell out long before she gets to take them back to her own home. The Maud’s House blog extends the shop beyond the bricks and mortar and delves into more cultural and artistic endeavours across the UK and, indeed, the world.  ‘It was never intentional for my personality to be so present within the Maud’s House brand, we even opted to name the shop after my great grandmother (I get people calling me Maud all the time now),’ Hattie muses. ‘However, when you own such a small business and ultimately you’re the only person doing the day-to-day operations and marketing, it’s hard not to make your voice heard, especially when you’re so passionate about what you do.’

independent magazines at Maud's House lifestyle store

The blog covers indie mags (yay!), new music and shop news, as well as fun cocktails and in-depth features on the designers arriving at the shop. ‘Maud’s House isn’t just a place where you can pick up your bestie’s birthday present or your ace new slippers, it’s about a lifestyle we share with like-minded folk and the topics on the MH Journal reflect that,’ adds Hattie. ‘It’s all the stuff our customers can relate to, particularly our regulars who like to look out for more personal updates.’

Maud's House lifestyle store
Maud's House - independent makers and designers

The blog and the Instagram account portray a cool, creative approach to shop keeping. ‘IG is the main way I connect socially with our online customers, I think it works because it’s so visual and I have fun curating the feed, posting vignettes of the shop much like how I enjoy merchandising products in-store.’ Like many of us, the app opens up a portal into the world outside Hattie’s own, and offers inspiration, as well as the instant interaction with customers. ‘When I’m having a quiet day in Skipton, IG manages to keep me focused on the bigger picture and even just the smallest of comments brightens up my day!’ admits Hattie. ‘I tend not to follow many shops on IG, simply because it can become a distraction from my own creative vision, but on a personal level I receive lots of warm and supportive comments and DM’s from fellow indie owners which is pretty humbling when they’re out there doing amazing things of their own.’

shelves at Maud's House lifestyle store
Maud's House - Shopkeeper Spotlight

Hattie’s positivity and pure love for the business seem to extend to all aspects of running a small indie, and so far she has found that the positives of her job far outweigh the challenges. ‘In the early days, I found that going from working in a bustling creative studio environment to spending the best part of the week working solo from the shop could be quite lonely, without having colleagues to critique your work and give you valuable feedback,’ Hattie says. ‘But as the MH community has grown, so has my confidence - I’m never alone for very long and my ‘team’ is made up of regular customers, some now good friends, who visit on a weekly basis.’ And her advice for budding indie shopkeepers? ‘I think if you’ve got passion, drive and vision then go for it - don’t deliberate, or imitate others, just do it, once you’ve got over the initial hurdles of setting up shop you’ll thank yourself.’

All photography by Scott Cross

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Reste

91 reunites with Jacqui Martin- owner of Reste, a natural homewares store on England’s south coast.

When 91 hosted our first pop-up market held at Tottenham Court Road’s West Elm store, guests were first welcomed by Jacqui Martin and her range of useful, beautiful and naturally-inspired homewares. Wooden cleaning tools sat happily alongside soy candles, with texture and warmth from wool blankets and soft linens. Reste began as an online destination in 2015, and opened its doors as a bricks-and-mortar store in the summer of 2017, and throughout that time the product range has varied little. ‘Everything I source for Reste is beautifully made, and designed to be used and cherished for a long time,’ says Jacqui. ‘There is a reason and provenance behind all the products, encouraging shoppers to buy more carefully - I hate throwaway consumerism.’  

Reste, lifestyle store, Hastings

This isn’t Jacqui’s first foray into the world of online retail, however. As the mother of two daughters, Jacqui used the online market to open a partyware website around 15 years ago, which she ran from home. The business sold exclusive party bags, filled with unique handmade products at a time when partyware was very much focussed on the mainstream shopping outlets. ‘I’m incredibly risk averse, so I built my business slowly but it eventually became huge,’ explains Jacqui. ‘I became quite disillusioned with the throw-away, mass-produced things I was stocking and the growth of the competition, so I decided to sell the business in 2014.’  

Reste, homeware store, Hastings

A move to Hastings along the south coast of England followed, but Jacqui soon missed her online business. ‘I missed buying and sourcing products, I missed the photography aspect, and I missed the connection through social media,’ continues Jacqui. ‘So I decided to create something less commercially-driven, and didn’t really plan ahead too much- I just knew I wanted to stock items where I knew the origin of everything.’ Jacqui’s approach to curating her stock is often more ad-hoc than other independent stores. ‘I don’t follow trends, and I only visited a trade show for the first time a month ago!’ laughs Jacqui. ‘A lot of the producers are small artists and makers that I’ve found through Instagram, and others I’ve found through my love of window shopping and lifestyle photoshoots,’ she adds.  

Reste, lifestyle store, Hastings

A keen traveller, Jacqui often finds products that are specific to a geographical area, such as the natural wooden cleaning brushes. ‘These are produced in a small factory in Sweden, which is known for its brush-binding,’ she explains. ‘They’re made by visually-impaired people, so it keeps them in work and also means that both the makers and the shopkeeper (me!) benefit from my selling the products.’ This ethical approach to selling is really at the heart of Reste, but it has its challenges. ‘The value of the pound and Brexit is posing challenges- I’m limited in what I can import from Europe and even from the US,’ sighs Jacqui. ‘However, I love to support local makers and relish the small batches of products they’re able to produce. There’s room for everyone if we support each other.’  

Reste, lifestyle store, Hastings

Reste opened its wood and glass doors in June of 2017, when an unexpected opportunity arose. ‘I hadn’t necessarily planned to open a destination shop, but my husband was looking for a local office space and we chose a site with a retail area that I could use for workshops as well as an office for him,’ recalls Jacqui. 'Hastings is an area with masses of cultural heritage, and the population of artists, illustrators and musicians are really beginning to spread themselves across the retail part of the town,’ Jacqui continues. ‘The shop space here had previously been various take-away food outlets and had a reputation for being cursed- the French restaurant that occupied the space before me never even opened!’ After applying layers and layers of white paint to the space, Jacqui began to source her furniture and fittings as cheaply as possible. Reclaimed scaffold planks hung with nautical rope provide shelving as well as a nod to the seaside location, and a wax pasting table provides the ideal display area for the shop’s ceramics and plants. Like the stock, the space itself is natural, fresh and purposeful. ‘The most surprising aspect is how supportive my local community has been- opening the shop has really made my feel part of the town, I feel so rooted,’ Jacqui smiles.

Reste, lifestyle store, Hastings

The shop floor has also provided Jacqui with an opportunity to display another of her loves- antique and vintage finds. ‘There’s lots of vintage bits in the shop that aren’t available online,’ says Jacqui. ‘I try to source things with real provenance regardless of whether they’re collectable or not; for example, the Balkan ceramics I love to buy from antiques markets have been surprisingly popular and are often hard to part with!’ Other favourites included the Scandinavian ceramics, which Jacqui admits are probably the only things she stocks that are purely aesthetic.

Jacqui Martin, owner of Reste, lifestyle store, Hastings

2018 is an exciting prospect for Jacqui, as she looks ahead to buying seasonally and enjoying her first spring and summer in the shop. ‘I tend to buy small amounts often, especially when buying wholesale from small makers,’ she explains. ‘I’m beginning to learn what sells quickly, and the limitations of a small space- it certainly keeps my job interesting.’ With a select, ethical stock range that places emphasis on provenance and practicality, it’s no wonder that Jacqui is excited about exploring the possibilities of Reste in coming year and beyond. 

Reste, 3 George St, Hastings, TN34 3EG