Shop Local: Homemade at The Barn on showcasing local talent this Christmas and beyond
- Credit: Archant
A Kneesworth IT technical specialist-turned artisan shop owner has told the Crow she hopes her new venture will continue to grow and promote local talent as we enter a second lockdown this week.
Caroline Smith took over Homemade at The Barn the day before the first lockdown, having lived in Kneesworth and been a customer at the quirky store in Old North Road – next to Yuva restaurant – for many years.
She said: “I’ve always loved the shop because it has unusual things and there is nothing else like it in the area.
“The previous owner had to give up the shop for personal reasons and there were a couple of people who were interested but they pulled out. As a customer, I kept popping back and finding out what was going on from the previous owner.
“On March 20, I came in and was told the shop would have to close down – I went away and I thought about it while I was out walking my dog and said ‘Oh I’ll do it, I’ll take it over’. I then ran back to the shop with the news.”
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Craft enthustiast Caroline previously worked in IT for an international retailer, so said she understands retail but has not owned a shop before. She also said she knows the ins and outs of online prescence and social media – something she is putting to good use now they are operating a ‘click and collect’ sevice.
She said: “The first challenge I had when i took over and we could open again was that people were still very nervous about coming out to shop, but because we are such a big place it is a more relaxed environment.
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“We can give people the space to wander round and I think gradually the word got out. There’s a lot of talent round here, so I have tried to introduce more artisans to selling their creations in the shop. It was originally more of a secondhand upcycle business but I managed to find a few new people to sell their goods in the shop.
“They shared it on their social media so then their friends and crafters who do similar things got in touch and people have been popping in all the time saying they have things they’d like to sell.
“The artisan creators get very excited about having their product on display, and I get very excited for them. I text them when we get the first sale, we have very friendly impromptu little ideas like ‘who is the best seller?’ – so there’s a little bit of competitiveness there. We are all very supportive of each other, and there is a big team ethos.
“The shop is about promoting the talent we have locally and about keeping those traditional skills alive, especially while people are at home. You could start something that you could generate a little bit of pocket money from or indeed make a living from.
“I think the positive thing that has come out of this pandemic is that because people have had to shop locally, they can see what is available locally that isn’t available on the mass market. We are starting to see a change, in that people are keen to support local businesses.
“There are things people can’t get from us, but the first thought is for small business – that’s what I have seen from customers here, for sure.
“At the moment we are heavy on Christmas, Christmas cards, gifts – including unusual gifts and decorations, we have lots of jams and chutneys.
“We are very eco-conscious in that we have wrapping paper that is biodegradable, we have soaps and things that are environmentally friendly, we have things for around the house, we have artwork as well and we have lots of ‘shabby chic’.
“We spread everything round the barn so you have to hunt for it. It’s more of a ‘shopping experience’.
“I think people are keen to still do Christmas, we have seen the sale of Christmas items more around September and October time so people have been getting ahead of the game.
“I am hoping that we will continue to grow here and will continue to encourage those who have skills, that perhaps don’t currently have an outlet for them, to have their creations here so there will always be something new for customers to see.”
She added: “From today, and throughout lockdown we will be operating the click and collect service. I will be showcasing lots of the gorgeous goodies we have in The Barn so you can still get your hands on those lovely handmade and unique items ready for Christmas.”