CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Independent attitude – celebrating our small businesses

PUBLISHED: 11:24 29 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:24 29 April 2014

The Creative Sanctuary

The Creative Sanctuary

Archant

Make way. Our independents are fighting back. From fashion to food, gifts to interiors and books to bikes, small businesses are fulfilling a need for quality, friendliness and individualism. Ethanie Jackson Turner looks at 60 in the county that are leading the way

Rabbit cushion, Amelou's DenRabbit cushion, Amelou's Den

A few years ago, the independent retailer was on the brink of becoming an endangered species, holding on to their identity as a wave of heavyweight retailers rolled in to town. But now there has been a resurgence in fortune and independents are on the up. Consumers, perhaps in a reaction to the sameness and often character-free nature of big business have turned to individualism, quality and connectedness.

.

Rachel Jeffrey, Mill Walk, Wheathampstead racheljeffrey.co.uk.

Rachel Jeffrey is a gold and silversmith who has been making jewellery (such as pictured above) for more than 20 years and describes her creations as ‘meaningful sculptures’. She has caught the eye of the royal family (she designed a brooch for the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday) and was featured on Channel 4’s Kirstie’s Vintage Home last year.

Brookfield Farm butchersBrookfield Farm butchers

As well as handcrafted pieces, Rachel and her friendly and knowledgeable team offer the chance for novice jewellery makers to try the craft and create their own pieces.

Rachel says attitudes have changed for the good towards independents in recent years: ‘Years ago, people would look in the shop and wouldn’t enter because they hadn’t heard of me and therefore didn’t trust what I was selling. Thankfully times have changed, people want to buy something that is unique, that has true worth.’

.

Lavendergreen, London Road, St Albans lavenderblueworkshop.com.

Heartwood Candle CoHeartwood Candle Co

Lavendergreen is in its 11th year selling French-style furniture, gifts and homeware and now also offers classes in makeovers for furniture.

‘We are fortunate to have built up a good relationship with many loyal customers who have seen us grow and change over the years,’ explains owner, Joanne Marks (pictured above).

‘At present, customers are enjoying our Annie Sloan Chalk Paint classes, which can quickly and easily transform tired furniture with no laborious preparation.

‘We plan to add more painting courses and continue hunting far and wide to bring new treasures to St Albans.’

The Creative SanctuaryThe Creative Sanctuary

.

The Creative Sanctuary, Fore Street, Hertford thecreativesanctuary.co.uk.

Angela Connor, owner of The Creative Sanctuary (knitted wear, right), was working for a yarn company based in a department store on Oxford Street when she saw how lucrative the knitting and sewing industry was becoming, and decided to work on her own business plan. ‘We have a calendar full of workshops and classes, where people come to learn, hang out and make things together,’ she explains. ‘The climate is changing towards independent retail. There’s a wonderful vibe towards keeping towns like Hertford special, and many of the shops are indies.’

.

The Dressing RoomThe Dressing Room

David’s Bookshop and Music, Eastcheap, Letchworth davids-bookshops.co.uk.

Established in 1963, David’s is a bookworm’s treasure trove stocking more than 50,000 titles over two floors (some of the collection is pictured above). Visit its cosy café and you can get lost in a good book while eating homemade cake.

On the key ingredients to its business success, manager Paul Wallace says, ‘We have a deep community involvement and offer work placements to schools.

‘We try to do everything possible concerning books – selling new, bargain, secondhand and antiquarian books. We will order any book and hold many book events such as signings, school fairs, talks, public debates – books are about ideas. The same applies to music, with all formats and genres and live performances.’

Rachel JeffreyRachel Jeffrey

.

Brookfield Farm Butchery, Aston End Road, Aston brookfield-farm.co.uk.

‘Being an independent is challenging at the best of times,’ says Barbara Plumb, shop manager at Brookfield Farm Butchery.

‘People have very busy lives and it’s so easy to just go to the supermarket and get everything you need. To get people to make a special journey to your shop is difficult, you have to make their journey worthwhile.’

LavendergreenLavendergreen

Rearing its own pigs and Aberdeen Angus beef is what makes Brookfield Farm an attraction, and with its own land and knowledgeable butchers (left), customers can trust the provenance of its produce. As well as its onsite shop, the farm is now also focusing on the expansion of its online shop and introducing nationwide delivery.
.

Musicale, Sun Lane, Harpenden musicale.co.uk.

A common denominator with Hertfordshire’s independents is that they have mastered the art of listening to what customers want. Take husband and wife duo David and Gill Johnston. They have been running Harpenden Musicale since 1977, when they 
first invited musicians to play in 
their cottage.

David says, ‘We hadn’t planned to set up a music school, and we had no idea of the incredible interest in the Harpenden area for music-making opportunities. A group, which met in our front room, wanted to meet again and bring along friends. Eventually the front room wasn’t big enough!’

The music school now gives lessons for all ages, gives budding musicians the chance to try out instruments, and offers opportunities to play in bands and orchestras of all genres.

David adds that a key to modern marketing is the internet, with people expecting businesses to have a strong online presence. ‘We are getting to grips with social media – it’s not as daunting as it first seems. It actually becomes quite easy.’
.

The Dressing Room, High Street, St Albans the-dressingroom.com.

An independent that has achieved a harmonious blend between shop front and online presence is the multi award-winning fashion boutique, The Dressing Room.

Director Deryane Tadd (facing page, top) says independents are what make UK high streets so interesting.

‘The Dressing Room is dedicated to being the very best independent retailer possible. We set ourselves apart from the high street by our attention to detail, outstanding customer focus and an excellent product mix picked with our specific market in mind. You simply will not get this from a multiple retailer and we need people to recognise and celebrate that.’
.

Quirky Interiors (St Albans-based online shop) quirkyinteriors.co.uk.

James Petre – an antiques dealer since leaving school – also started making as well as selling furniture in 2007. He says things really took off for the business when he started to make industrial-style alternative pieces he loved and would have in his own home. ‘I continually work hard and stick to what I like rather than following trends,’ he explains. ‘Things have been going well. It was hard when I was dealing antiques. After September 11, the antiques trade really suffered due to the decrease in American tourists. Once I set up online, business has got better each year.’

A new workshop and showroom is about to open. See the website for details.

.

Amelou’s Den (Tring-based online shop) amelousden.co.uk.

Kike Schafer of Amelou’s Den started selling her endearing handcrafted childrenswear and homeware products just over a year ago (bottom left) using vintage and vintage-inspired materials, and is now also working on developing her own textile prints.

She says independents can offer a much more personal experience than chains. ‘You can have a dialogue, even via a web-based business. We don’t have the budget or reach that a large chain has, but what we largely rely on is word-of-mouth recommendations.’

.

Heartwood Candle Company (St Albans-based online shop) heartwoodcandlecompany.co.uk.

Business partners Laura and Dominique started Heartwood Candle Company in May 2013 and are delighted that business, in this short time, has been doing so well. ‘We are fortunately finding that being independent has been a positive rather than a negative,’ says Laura. ‘There seems to be more goodwill towards independent traders, with consumers looking for something a little bit different and locally-produced.’

Heartwood will be at the Made in Hertfordshire tent at the Hertfordshire County Show on May 24 and 25.

.

50 MORE INDEPENDENTS YOU MUST KNOW.

.

JEWELLERY & ACCESSORIES.

.

Harriet Kelsall, Fairclough Hall Farm, Halls Green hkjewellery.co.uk.

A multi award-winning bespoke jeweller that aims to bring a Saville Row aesthetic to her unique designs. Housed in a gorgeous barn in the countryside.

.

Hats Inspired (Ware-based mobile service) hatsinspired.co.uk.

A mobile, appointment-based service for bespoke fascinators and hats for any and every occasion.

.

Gatwards of Hitchin, Market Place, Hitchin gatwardsofhitchin.co.uk.

This beautiful old warren of a jewellers has been in business since 1760 and is still run by the Gatward family. It sources jewellery from around the world, as well as from British designers, to suit all budgets.

.

Kingshill Jewellery, Market Place, St Albans kingshilljewellery.com.
Established in 1955. Along with a wide range of jewellery, it has a gallery dedicated to diamonds as well as a private design consultation area.

.

Michelle Dawn, High Street, Buntingford micheledawn.co.uk.
Vintage jewellery maker with a love of natural gemstones, freshwater pearls and anything that sparkles. Michelle also specialises in wedding jewellery.

.
INTERIORS.

.

So Heavenly, Palmers Lane, Bishop’s Stortford soheavenly.co.uk. 
Stocks one-off, locally-created pieces wherever possible, including furniture, art, decorative items, soft furnishings, garden ornaments, gifts, storage and tableware.

Down Memory Lane <bold> Spring Road, Letchworth 


downmemorylaneletchworth.co.uk 
A charmingly old-fashioned shop, chop-a-bloc with vintage treasures. Opened in 1996, the extensive premises has a wide range of goods including furniture, lighting, china, gardenalia, linen and rugs as well as a large collection of silver and costume jewellery.

.

Finesse Interiors, High Street, Baldock interiors-by-finesse.co.uk. 
Family-run made-to-measure soft furnishing specialists also stocking wallpaper, blinds, carpets and flooring. Personal design and fitting service and 23-years experience to boot.

.

Maison Hartley, George Street, St Albans maisonhartley.com. 
Accessibly priced furniture, lighting and home accessories. Since opening 18 months ago, all profit has been ploughed back into the business in terms of stock and high calibre staff.

.

Chloe James Lifestyle, High Street, St Albans chloejameslifestyle.co.uk. 
A small shop with a great product selection from interiors to clothes. Recently introduced a selection of chutneys and jams from City Market Co.

.

Howard’s Watch and Clock Shop, Whitehorse Street, Baldock.

The place to go for everything to do with timepieces. Howard’s specialises in sales and repairs of clocks and watches of all kinds, as well as buying and restoring antique pieces.

.

Charles Wilson Carpets, Hermitage Rd, Hitchin charleswilsoncarpets.co.uk.

Supplies large range of carpets and floorcoverings with measuring, estimating and fitting byfully-trained and qualified in-house team. Hertfordshire Federation of Small Businesses award winner for Best Customer Service.

.

Welwyn Carpet Mills, Bridge Road, Welwyn GC welwyncarpetmills.com.

Established in 1996, one of Herts’ largest independent stockists of quality affordable carpets and flooring. Sales team with more than 50 years’ collective experience provides unbiased advice.

.

Food.

.
Marlowe and House, The Village Arcade, St Albans marloweandhouse.co.uk.

This gorgeous deli specialising in gourmet food, opened in October last year. It only uses high qulaity small suppliers the owners trust and is invested in what it sells.

.

Foxholes Farm, London Road, Hertford foxholesfarm.com. Not only a butchers and a deli but also offers a range of luxury hampers and gifts. A new tea room expansion is now complete.

.

Beechwood Fine Foods, Frogmore Street, Tring beechwoodfinefoods.com.

Award-winning deli serving British and locally-sourced produce including seasonal fruit and veg hand-picked in Ivinghoe, chorizo and other smoked and cured meats from Hertfordshire-baked bread and Tring apple juice.

.

The Cheese Plate, High Street, Buntingford thecheeseplate.co.uk. Award-winning cheesemonger and cheese counter stocking more than 300 British and continental cheeses. Offers popular tasting nights once a month.

.

Heaven is a Cupcake (St Albans-based online shop) heavenisacupcake.net.
Multi award-winning cupcakes that are not just delicious but are little works of art. The staff also hold private cupcake decorating parties and classes.

.

Halsey’s, Market Place, Hitchin halseysdeli.co.uk.Much-loved delicatessan and tearoom with locally-grown fruit and veg to as well as cured meats and cheeses from around the world. It also offers a catering service for lunches.

.

Dixie’s Cupcakery, Lamb Alley, St Albans dixiescupcakery.co.uk. Brought to you by Luisa Zissman, runner-up of reality TV show The Apprentice, Dixie’s uses free range eggs and locally-sourced fruit and vegetables to produce its cupcakes.

.

Gifts.

.

Hamper Gifts, Spring Valley Business Centre, St Albans hampergifts.co.uk.A family-run business that creates beautiful hampers presented in open baskets hand tied with ribbon. Choose from food, wine, picnic, baby gifts and beauty wares.

.

Love Willow, Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth love-willow.com. This women’s clothing, accessories and gifts boutique brings the unique, unusual, fashionable and fragrant to the discerning shoppers of Sawbridgeworth. Its mission is to ‘put the fun back into shopping.’

.

Garden Divas (Hitchin-based online shop) gardendivas.co.uk. An online garden gift boutique with a style of its own, appealing to female gardeners who perhaps prefer a touch of pink with their grenn fingers.

.

Horse Divas (Hitchin-based online shop) thehorsediva.co.uk.
With mother Gilly the brains behind Garden Divas, it didn’t take long for daughter Katie to follow suit with Horse Divas, offering a range of equestrian gifts to make horse owners (and horses) happy.

.

Etcetera, Howard Centre, Welwyn GC and Churchgate, Hitchin facebook.com/pages/Etcetera-Gifts-and-Home-Fashions. Specialising in homewares and gifts. These two stores have a beautiful and eclectic range of jewellery, glass, ceramics, beauty products, furniture, soft toys, greetings cards and a large selection of gift wrapping ideas.

.

Fashion.

.

The Women’s Society, Andrew Street, Hertford womens-society.co.uk. A fashion boutique with an enchanting atmosphere – quirky and theatrical. Find everything from shoes and accessories to the latest on-trend clothing.

.

Amelie Fashion, High Street, Berkhamsted ameliefashion.co.uk. Designer womenswear store that brings together clothes, shoes and accessories. It Showcases talented and exciting British and international designers.

.

Flutterby’s Boutique, High Street, Buntingford flutterbysboutique.co.uk.From designer pieces to vintage treasures and bridal treats, this is where ‘women can enjoy finding clothes and accessories that make them look and feel wonderful’.

.

So Unique, High Street, Stevenage facebook.com/pages/So-Unique. Unusual, eclectic clothing, footwear and accessories for women. Known for giving away exciting little goodie bags with purchases.

.

Wild Roses Lingerie, Norton Way North, Letchworth wildroseslingerie.co.uk.

Specialist luxury boutique offering exquisite lingerie and swimwear from top brands such as Lise Charmel, Prima Donna, Marie Jo, Lejaby, Gottex, Lidea and Charmline, with free fitting in store.

.

SuSu, High Street, Welwyn susu-style.co.uk.

Packed with individual accessories and clothing, this small, friendly boutique situated in the heart of old Welwyn is run by stylist Susan Bull and her highly experienced team.

.

Mr & Mrs Smith, High Street, Berkhamsted facebook.com/pages/MrMrs-Smith. A mens and womenswear designer boutique, brought to you by the same creators of Amelie (above). It also stocks a wide range of accessories and fragrances.

.

D. Copperfield, Chequer Street, St Albans.
Designer menswear shop established 1973. Its philosophy is ‘to know you better than any search engine or a department store ever could’.

.

Tabrizi, Wigmores North, Welwyn GC.

Elegant designer menswear shop which stocks on-trend clothes, shoes and accessories.

.

Leisure.

.

Herts Music Centre, Sphere Industrial Estate, St Albans hertsmusiccentre.co.uk. With purpose-built soundproofed studios and music lessons on offer for all ages, Herts Music Centre has much to offer to novice and advanced musicians.

.

Empire Records, Heritage Close, St Albans empirestalbans.com. Specialists in both new and secondhand records and CDs, the store aims to fill the void left by HMV. It often hosts evenings for up-and-coming musicians to play to the public.

.

Hill and Company, High Street, Welwyn hillviolinshop.co.uk. A beautifully old-fashioned shop selling violins, violas, cellos and bows to hire and buy. It also has a repair workshop. The third-generation business has operated the shop for more than 30 years.

.

Complete Outdoors, London Road, Bourne End completeoutdoors.co.uk. A knowledgable and extensive outdoor and camping gear company established 35 years. It describes itself as a ‘bricks and click company’ with 50 per cent of sales online.

.

Well Run, Wigmores South, Welwyn GC wellrunsports.co.uk.

Well run offers a personal service designed to increase enjoyment of running and walking. Founded in 2011 by a runner with more than 20 years’ experience.

.

Hatfield Cycles, St Albans Rd East, Hatfield facebook.com/hatfieldcycles.This friendly cycle shop offers a wide range of bikes including road, mountain, hybrid, leisure, childrens and BMX from top brands. There is also a workshop on-site for repair and service work.

.

Books.

.

Chorleywood Bookshop <bold> New Parade, Rickmansworth chorleywoodbookshop.co.uk. Established more than 40 years with 1.2 million titles that ca be ordered for overnight delivery. The friendly and knowledgable staff also organise a year-round events programme including the Chorleywood Literary Festival and the Chorleywood Children’s Literary Festival.

.

Eric T Moore Books, Bridge Street, Hitchin erictmoore.co.uk. This treasure trove of a book shop offers a wide range of secondhand and antiquarian books, maps and prints. It also offers a book search service at no extra charge.

.

Chaos City Comics, Heritage Close, St Albans chaoscitycomics.com. From the same owner of Empire Records, Chaos City Comics stock every new-release Marvel, DC, Image, IDW and Dark Horse comic book. It also has a vast selection of independently published books and graphic novels.

.

Quiller Books, High Street, Buntingford quiller-books.co.uk. A small book shop offering secondhand and antiquarian books, as well as a selection of greetings cards, prints and maps.

.

Children.

.

Lettie Belle, lettiebelle.com.

Unique, hand stitched designs. Created using eco-aware fabrics, including eco-fi felt, organic cottons, leather scraps from a high-end leather factory and collected vintage fabrics.

.

Doodle Boo Baby, doodleboobaby.co.uk. An award-winning company offering a collection of gifts for mother and baby. A donation is made from every sale to Sparks, the children’s medical research charity.

.

Boutini, St Andrew Street, Hertford boutini.com. Funky, fashionable clothes for boys and girls, from newborn to eight years. AIt also sells soft toys and accessories.

Jelly Toys <bold> Newtown Road, Bishop’s Stortford 
jellytoys.co.ukOutlet for Woody’s Toy Box, stocking a wide variety of soft, colourful toys for babies and toddlers as well as soft books.

Little Beau Chic (Radlett-based online shop) 
littlebeauchic.co.uk 
New online shop selling super-stylish childrenswear. Ten per cent of profits go to Kids Company, a charity providing practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children.

More from Hertfordshire Life

Friday, November 16, 2018

Inspired by steampunk and Photoshop, amateur photographer Gary Nicholls embarked on an epic challenge to create a trilogy of lavish photo novels

Read more
November 2018
Friday, November 16, 2018

250 years ago this month a baron’s servant smashed down a bedroom door in St Albans’ White Hart Inn to find a prince in bed with his master’s wife. Cue a court case, a delighted press, and much airing of royal underwear

Read more
November 2018
Friday, November 16, 2018

Christmas isn’t complete without a trip to a festive fair. From German-style food stalls to vintage fetes, Hertfordshire’s Christmas markets have it all

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Don’t miss the December issue – everything you need for a fabulous Herts Christmas!

Read more
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Indulge in the very best of pub classics every Wednesday night at The Black Horse.

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

It’s that time of year again and we have our special T-BONE steak offer!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From Hertford to Flanders, a young army chaplain kept a vivid record of his experiences in the First World War. Sarah Reay tells her grandfather’s remarkable story

Read more
November 2018
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, so we’ve gathered some Remembrance Day events taking place in the county

Read more
November 2018
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in Hertfordshire this month, we have gathered lots of events for November 2018

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We quiz author Kevin Exley about his new book that takes the reader on the trail of fascinating stories, new and old, around Berkhamsted

Read more
October 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search