Since we opened our doors three years ago, our customers have constantly told us how much they appreciate quirky, independent businesses – and we feel exactly the same. We like to champion them through our #ThinkIndie campaign, and we’re fortunate that Harrogate has some brilliant independent businesses run by fantastic people who feel just as passionate about supporting each other.
With the festive season rapidly approaching, we thought it was the perfect time to share some of our favourite independent gift shops. We thoroughly recommend popping into all or any of them when you’re in need of a gift this Christmas – or any time of the year, actually!
Fashion marketing graduate Sophie Hartley turned her sharp eye for a trend to this shop in Beulah Street in February 2014. She had previously run a gift shop in Easingwold before setting up her on business to sell products at markets and festivals, but decided to put down roots in Beulah Street, an area of Harrogate that deserves a stronger independent presence.
She highlights some of her wide range in the window, but always finds her customers are surprised when they come into the shop and see just how much she has on offer. From quirky home decorations to multi-coloured tutus for little princesses, you’ll keep even the fussiest of friends happy here. Even if you don’t have someone to buy for, you’ll definitely be tempted to treat yourself to something new and unusual.
With deliveries coming in almost every day in the run-up to Christmas, it’s worth calling in regularly to see what’s new. Sophie loves nothing more than people visiting to browse her new stock and chat about the latest trends, even if they don’t buy – there’s no pressure selling here! Local people are visiting more and more, and she also finds that tourists like to call in as part of their “Harrogate experience,” seeing shops, cafés and restaurants they can’t find on their own high streets.
What makes Sophie Likes even more unusual is what you would find below the floorboards in the basement of the shop. Harking back to her festival days, Sophie still has 300 colourful deckchairs available for hire for everything from weddings and garden parties to public events. If you have been to any outdoor theatre, such as the open-air performances held at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, you may well have seen them in action. Sophie even supplied them to the organisers of the Tour de France when it visited Harrogate last summer – a world stage for a great independent gift shop in Harrogate!
Across the opposite side of the town centre, down the bottom of Montpellier Hill, you’ll find another unusual independent gift shop. Pots 2 Go is best known as Harrogate’s favourite place to decorate pottery, but it also sells ready-made gifts and cards. With a bright window and walls stacked with colourful items, Pots 2 Go is a warm and welcoming place to visit. It’s usually filled with people of all ages decorating everything from piggy banks to cake stands.
Pottery painting may seem like an activity that mostly appeals to young girls, but shop owner Suzie Poole says all sorts of visitors call in to flex their creative muscles. The workshop is often full of boys spending quality time with their dads, groups of women painting over a glass of wine, and people of all ages looking for individual, personalised gifts for their friends and family. Using baby footprints and toddler handprints, Pots 2 Go has been helping local parents to create keepsakes for the last decade. Meanwhile, during school holidays it keeps youngsters occupied for an hour, and evenings are popular with Brownies, the WI and groups of friends – especially with the dedicated Ladies’ Nights which are already booked up until Christmas
For people who can’t spare the time to create something themselves, Suzie and her team take commissions and there is always a stock of pre-made items in the shop suitable for any recipient. They also stock a range of hand-made gifts including baby bibs, pin boards, cushions, mirrors and storage boxes, as well as greetings cards. Many of them are created by former shop staff – Suzie has built up a great network of talented creative people and is keen to share their crafts.
Christmas is the busiest time of the year at Pots 2 Go, as customers either decorate festive items for their homes or look for unusual gifts for friends and family. From the October half term onwards, the workshop is increasingly in demand – but Suzie and her team love it. They aim to make it as welcoming and fun as possible, no matter how busy they are, and like seeing how much enjoyment people get from creating something themselves. Be warned, though: experience shows that pottery painting is very addictive!
A little further out of the town centre, on Kings Road, you’ll find Shine. This independent gift shop specialises in hand-made jewellery, accessories and home decorations. Owners Neil Thompson and Natalie Inger find as many unusual items as they can to fill the shelves, ensuring they have something a little bit different to offer their customers.
Both Neil and Natalie have a background as museum curators, which shows through their careful attention to detail in the layout of the shop and the elegant displays. Natalie also brings something special to Shine: she designs and creates much of the jewellery on sale, meaning it can’t be found anywhere else.
Of course, Christmas is a busy time for any gift shop, and Shine is no different, but Neil resists the trend for filling shops with tinsel in the second week of September. They keep their festive window display under wraps until December. However, with quite a few American customers who need to shop early in order to send gifts to their family in the States, there are greetings cards and a few other festive items available in good time – and of course, the gifts they sell year-round are ideal for Christmas too. Neil and Natalie choose items that aren’t on sale in most gift shops, so their customers know they will always find unusual presents for friends and family.
The pair say their position on Kings Road is ideal. In fact, Natalie had had her eye on the row of shops for some time before one became available. When the estate agent’s board went up outside, she immediately jumped at the chance to open Shine and sell her own products, rather than supplying to others which she had been doing before. They’re not the only ones to see Kings Road as one of Harrogate’s hidden gems. It has lots of independent businesses, including a wide range of food shops, helping to keep it busy all year round.
In the coming months, Neil and Natalie, along with their staff, will be preparing for a 10th anniversary celebration at the shop in March. With regular customers coming from across Harrogate and the surrounding villages, it’s bound to be a big occasion. If you want to join them to raise a glass in honour of a decade of independence, keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for more announcements soon!
So there you have it; 3 of our town’s best. If you find another independent gift shop that you think deserves to be included then you can drop us a line in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.
If you are thirsty for more recommendations you can check out some of our previous posts below.