I love Exeter and it’s thriving independent businesses. In my opinion, the indies drive the city forward and are the heart of the community. Over the years I have always favoured independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants over the bigger names in our shopping centres and high streets. I love seeking out the unusual and adore the personal approach you get from an independent store owner or worker. I can say hand on heart that many a friendship has been made by visiting my local indies.
Ann Hunter, InExeter manager said “We are so proud to launch the InExeter Gift Card, supporting the city’s independent businesses. So far, over 70 businesses are signed up to the scheme with more interest from other retailers coming in all the time in the lead up to Christmas. Being able to launch something like this prior to the Christmas rush is great for the city and will enable family and friends from near or far, to give loved ones the opportunity to choose something unique this Christmas from a local business that they love. Retailers included within the list of independent businesses supporting the card are Aromatika on Queen Street, Erin Cox Jewellery in Castle Street, Georgie & Flo on Gandy Street, Hutch in Paris Street, Lloyds Lounge in Princesshay, Sancho’s on Fore Street and Eat Your Greens on Sidwell Street”.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to head out with an InExeter Gift Card in hand to do a little bit of Christmas shopping. I popped into a few of my favourite indie stores as well as discovering a new place of interest.
My afternoon started at Georgie & Flo on Upper Paul Street. Georgie & Flo is tucked in behind the RAMM museum and a stone’s throw from The Phoenix Arts Centre. This little shop is an absolute gem filled to bursting with locally made gifts, cards and treats. Each item is carefully sourced by Emily, co-owner, from the local area.
They even have a map of the southwest peninsula with flags to highlight where each and every artisan product comes from. Georgie & Flo might just be my new favourite shop in the city. Their ethics are top notch and each and every member of the Georgie& Flo team are the sweetest, most charming of people. You MUST hunt them out. To read about my recent visit click here.
With my InExeter card I purchased…
Hog and Tallow soaps £1.20 each – made in Somerset by Emma and Jess who started the company in 2015. Made using locally sourced tallow, West Country rapeseed oil and foraged botanicals. They are conscious of the materials used and also try to avoid waste wherever possible.
An Ethically Hand-Crafted notepad handmade in Somerset by Mell Oliver. Using 100% recycled paper and locally sourced materials.
Wooden Alpaca £9.50 handmade by Lily Faith – based in Devon.
Dyno Happy Birthday card by Jay Pea. £3.50
The next stop on my tour of InExeter Independents was Aromatika on Queen Street. A shop that makes and sells wonderful organic and vegan skincare products, as well as mineral make up by Lili Lolo.
Aromatika was founded in 2006 by its owner and Managing Director Lisa Hosking and has been built from the ground up, starting life as a true Devon based cottage industry. All of Aromatika’s products are handmade in Devon, SLS and parabens free, organic and natural. What’s more, absolutely nothing is tested on animals.
In Aromatika I purchased a Lili Lolo “Ooh La La” mineral blush for £9.00. Since my initial visit, I have been back and stocked up on Frankincense and Rose eye cream. I have so many things on my wish list. I will be a regular from now on!
From Aromatika I headed over to March Coffee on South Street for a bite to eat. It was way past lunchtime and I was starving! The InExeter Gift Card can also be used in a myriad of cafes, bars and restaurants too! A hot choccie and a toasted goats cheese and sweet potato sourdough sandwich recharged my batteries ready for my Fore Street exploration. March is relatively new to the indie scene in Exeter and has only being open for a couple of years. They have great coffee, amazing sweet and savoury treats and are particularly famous for their awesome handmade filled doughnuts. They are so good and come highly recommended. I can only describe them as filled doughnut clouds. March has a laid-back vibe and plays great music that creates a cool environment for a coffee or lunch date as well as an on the hop workspace.
Fore Street in Exeter is the home to many of the city’s independent businesses. I had my sites set on a favourite of mine for my first port of call, Sancho’s. Sancho’s is split into two stores. One store is predominantly women’s clothing, gifting and homewares and the smaller shop a couple of doors down is home to the menswear collections. The staff are so passionate about what they do and share their love, passion and drive with every single customer. Each and every item has a story. My particular favourite at this point in time is their knitted beanie hats. Each one is made by hand using merino wool by a group of pensioners at Age Concern, Exeter. The hats are sold at Sancho’s with profits heading right back to Age Concern! To read about a previous visit to Sancho’s click here.
In Sancho’s I purchased…
Soap Daze New Rose soap at £5.95.
Sanchos Rose Geranium Votive Candle at £7.00
Next stop just a few doors down was Willow Hilson Vintage Boutique. I have known Willow for a few years now. My relationship developing through visiting her store. Her shop is particularly special because everything within it is vintage. She sources her stock all over Europe with regular buying trips here, there and everywhere. I love visiting and perusing the delightful items on offer; occasionally trying on the odd vintage dress or some of the remarkable jewellery. There is never any pressure to buy. Willow loves it when you stop and chat about the gorgeous goodies in store. Many of the hand-picked vintage items have a story. It’s a great feeling knowing the history of an item you have purchased. Willow gives you a little insight into the life of your purchase.
After a little trying on session I finally plumped for a divine shopping basket as my InExeter Gift Card purchase. I have a thing for vintage bags, especially wicker. This will be my second wicker bag purchased from Willow in as many months! I know wicker isn’t particularly of the season but when you see something you love in a vintage store you just have to have it otherwise it might be gone the next time you visit.
One thing I have noticed on my tour of Exeter’s independent stores is the love and passion that every owner and shop worker has. They really care about you as a customer having the best shopping experience possible. You rarely get this level of attention in a high street or shopping centre store. Partly because they are just too busy and partly because the staff don’t have the level of training or care that you might find elsewhere. I noticed that every store I visited took time to wrap and package my purchases exquisitely with tissue, brown paper and even flower petals in Aromatika. Little things like this make a huge difference. Plus it means I don’t have to re-wrap my purchases if they are gifts for Christmas!
I really hope the InExeter Gift Card is something you might consider as a gift for your friends or loved ones this Christmas and beyond. It is an amazing way of keeping your money in the local community. If everybody took the time to venture out of their comfort zones this December and into one of the stores I have mentioned, or any another independent, you will be making so many local business owners extremely happy. Shopping locally is the way forward in my eyes. We can all help each other to create a happier and friendlier community. To purchase head on over to the InExeter website here.
Disclaimer: I was asked by InExeter to review the card. I was able to keep the purchases I made.
Photos by the ever wonderful Angel Wade.