Your local Indie Store heroes: Part Two
As lockdown slowly lifts, it’s more important than ever to support local. Here, some of our Indie Store businesses in Beds recount their journey and show what makes them special.
Tabitha Cross, Tabitha Mary
After studying creative courses to degree level, I spent a few years exploring different roles, including designing homewares, licensed stationery and even Christmas crackers. In 2012, I designed my Shipping Forecast Regions print, popped one online and, low and behold, it sold! I started attending local craft markets, which is how my railway poster-style prints evolved, designing local destinations. Slowly and surely my collection grew and so did their popularity. It was in 2014, that I decided to quite the 9-5 and took Tabitha Mary full time. A decision that changed my life.
It’s been such an incredible journey, made even more fun by two house moves, a wedding and a couple of babies! Now, with over 200 prints in my collection, the business rules my life, but I’m so excited and grateful every day to be sat here juggling family life and the business. Covid has certainly tested my juggling skills, with two under three’s to keep alive as well as the business! My hopes and dreams for the future are to keep growing, keep expanding my range and to work with more local businesses.
Emma Foley, Anorak
I opened Anorak in 2019 after spotting a vacant store space in The Arcade in Bedford. It was a lightbulb moment and I haven’t look back since!
Having no experience of retail it has been a huge learning curve, and I’m so lucky to have some amazing friends and customers who have supported me on the journey.
Covid has forced me to think in new directions and I think independents have been excellent at this. I’m really excited about the future, as I think we are on a turning point of the independent shop becoming central in our town centres. In Bedford, we have an amazing collection of Indies with lots of people who want to support them. The service we can offer is so different to online or big chain stores, and I love being able to offer an amazing and personal experience to my customers.
Ash and Stacey, Black Bridge Distillery
I’d been wanting to open a distillery for over 10 years. However, been a naval officer based in and around the UK, I never got the chance to stop and outline a proper business plan, never mind design and build a distillery. But witnessing the surge in popularity of gin over the last five years gave me the spur to finally go for it. Having discussed over many weeks/months with my fiancé, Stacey, we had one option: invest our wedding fund on distillery equipment and give it a shot. Fast forward three years, and we now have two sites, one small setup in Wheathampstead and a larger facility in an old converted barn at the Luton Hoo Estate. We’ve carved out a niche in the contract distillation industry by making spirit brands for other people. We currently produce over 35 unique recipes of gin, vodka, rum and whisky, which span over 80 different products.
Covid did not slow us down, but more refocused our efforts. We had a huge downturn in sales, as pubs and restaurants just weren’t trading. So, we switched to producing hand sanitiser, which kept us afloat during the first lockdown. A portion of the profits made from selling this direct to businesses was used to give out free sanitiser to key workers, care homes and essential services, such as St Albans Fire and Rescue. We didn’t have a fancy label or anything – the point was to get it to the people who needed it, not create a marketing spin. Word got out on Facebook and it went viral, so I spent most of my days driving around Hertfordshire handing out free sanitiser!
Since June 2020, we’ve been operating a small bottle shop within the distillery at Luton Hoo, and now that lockdown’s lifting, we’re really looking forward to launching lots of new recipes from botanicals and fruits grown directly on the estate, and holding tours and tastings for the local community.
Carrie, Otter & Moose
After 25 years as a Chartered Accountant, I decided it was about time for a change. I’ve always loved matching the perfect present to the perfect person and I was craving some creativity. Now I have a job I love – from sourcing new products to building relationships with other local businesses. But what I love most is delivering gifts to people’s doorsteps – the look on their faces lifts me every time!
I’m based in Bedford and once I started sourcing products for our gift boxes, I realised that there were some fantastic indie businesses right on my doorstep. I’m passionate about including locally sourced goodies from Beds and Herts in our ‘Bedfordshire’ and ‘Love Local’ boxes, and I’m delighted to see that Covid has at least made people realise just what’s available to them in their local area. Pre Covid, Otter & Moose boxes could be found in some lovely local hotels, shops and coffee shops, and I’m looking forward to the (fingers crossed) post-Covid hospitality heyday when this part of the business can expand once again.
I’m currently working from my dining room/office with my husband in the other room and my Cavapoo Hershey by my feet attempting to eat the box filler! My two children are grown up and off elsewhere, but can always be called upon for social media advice. I’m so grateful for the support my family and friends have given me along the way. I can’t wait to grow with Otter & Moose!
Talia, Talia Giles
Running my own art and design business at HQ aka my attic studio happened by pure serendipity. After a relocation from the French Alps (where my husband and I ran a catering company) back to the UK, we ended up in Bedford, as we couldn’t afford to go back to London at the time. I’d been experimenting with digital art and using my knowledge of colour and form as a painter to create intricate, geometric artworks. A jewellery designer friend saw the artworks and persuaded me to get them professionally printed to sell in her shop. They all sold out within a week and my new pathway was decided.
My style has evolved over the years, but the artwork always keep your eyes and mind engaged, taking you on a playful journey of form and craftmanship. I want to encourage people to embrace colour and not be afraid to throw out the rulebook – just focus on what brings you joy. If you love it, buy it and display it proudly on the wall!
The last 12 months have been a real challenge. The Indie retailers I supply have been closed for the vast majority of the year, and as I don’t have a bricks and mortar shop, artisan markets made up a huge part of my income and were an opportunity to engage directly with my customers. It’s meant I’ve had to up my game online, which is no bad thing! I feel like there’s a lot of pent-up retail energy out there, so with the imminent return of spring, things are on the up after a rocky year adjusting to life in a pandemic. 2021 will see the completion of the Animals V Humans collection of endangered species, brand-new work exploring botanicals, a foray into some luxury stationary, as well as a new website launch in April, so I look forward to you all joining me on this journey.