Having studied for a degree in graphic design, it wasn’t until Naomi Eden worked in a shop herself, that she realised her true calling was to become a Shopkeeper. Spending several years working in small independent retail outlets and galleries, she gained a great deal of knowledge about artists and craftsmen, as well as valuable business experience. Encouraged by her friends and family, Naomi went in search of a vacant shop unit and was fortunate to find one in Axminster, a market town surrounded by quaint villages and unspoilt countryside. Set on the River Axe, within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s a town that achieved worldwide fame for its Axminster Carpets, first made by Thomas Whitty in 1755. The shop fortunately still had its vintage shop-front intact, and the original black and white tiled floor was still present, although hidden under a rather old carpet. “It was a physically exhausting job to restore it, but it really makes the shop look special.”
Naomi opened the doors to her store, Collate, in May of this year, with an exterior painted in a deep, inky blue, and an interior full of new and vintage homewares, art, craft and antiques. Her collection is curated from artisans based in the Southwest of England, namely Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall, and also works on products with companies who are based local to Collate. With a good selection of provincial auction houses holding regular antique sales and local flea markets, Naomi has a good eye for vintage and collectibles. “You never know what you’re going to find, it’s quite exciting! I want Collate to be about the experience and for people to feel comfortable and enjoy browsing. The shop is meant to make people feel good, to be a sensory experience with enjoyable music, enticing scents and interesting handmade products that you won’t find everywhere. I hope the mix of new and vintage products inspires people to create a look of their own, showing that the two looks can work in harmony with each other. I wanted Collate to have a very English feel to it, and am trying to keep it quite traditional, but with a modern twist.”
Naomi’s loyal customers appreciate the skill of a product that has been handmade and love the fact that she places importance on locally produced artisan craft, all presented in her own, individual and stylish way.
Naomi, Shopkeeper at Collate, Axminster
Who inspires you? My Mum – she is the kindest person I know. If you can be anything in life be kind, be compassionate, be patient. I am still working on those things! She inspires me everyday with her positive outlook on life, and nothing is ever an issue. We can work through anything, it may take time, but a resolution is always on the horizon. If we could all be a little bit more like my Mum, the world would definitely be a better place!
What inspires you? When someone works with conviction, in whatever discipline. Dedication and commitment is so inspiring, when someone shows a real passion for what they do. I don’t do bullshitters!
Before I was a shopkeeper, I was…. A shopkeeper working in someone else’s shop. I worked in a gorgeous shop in Lyme Regis called Ryder & Hope. This is where I was inspired and realised that I wanted to have my own shop.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? I haven’t had any hard lessons, yet. I’m sure something will crop up! I try and learn from any mishaps, otherwise they’re just something that annoys you.
What tasks do you like to delegate? I don’t delegate – I am a one-woman band!
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Everyone has an opinion, positive or negative and they will impart that on you, regardless. I have learned not to take the negativity to heart. I now have a bell, which I ring to clear the air of any bad vibes!
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Do it – you’re probably not going to make your millions, but it is an interesting, fulfilling and stimulating way to work.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? I don’t do famous people!! I want people who are genuinely interested in what the shop has to offer to visit, whoever you are!
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be…It took me 30 years to realise I wanted to be a shopkeeper. I never knew what I wanted to be before that. I am doing exactly what I was meant to do right now.
What is your perfect day off? Being slow, not rushing to do anything. Probably a walk with my dogs!
Can you share your five favourite shops? Midgely Green in Clevedon – Katherine and Seamus are just the loveliest people, and their shop is full of the most gorgeous pieces. No.57 in Ilminster – A cafe that also sells vintage and antiques wares. The food is so delicious and the shop is filled with such a great selection of different items, it’s like a treasure trove. Fountain Antiques in Honiton – An antiques centre that’s stuffed to the ceiling with interesting and eclectic objects. There’s always something in there to tempt me. R.H. Bunner & Son Ltd (Bunners) – A traditional ironmongers in a small town in Wales called Montgomery, which is where I lived for a while. The Fabric Shop in Axminster – Carol’s shop is piled high, literally to the ceiling, I’m not even exaggerating, with all the fabric you could ever imagine. It’s so full, that there’s only a tiny path through all the textiles to her counter at the back of the shop. What she doesn’t know about sewing isn’t worth knowing!
What is you favorite neighborhood coffee shop/restaurant? Millers Farm Shop – they do a mean chocolate brownie!
I wish I could…Afford to buy my own home – one day!
On the Future of Retail
I think the future for independent retailers is bright and retail is becoming more about the experience. I think there’s a continual shift happening towards a more mindful way of shopping. People love the personal touch, where you’re not just treated like a number – especially now as there are campaigns like ‘Just a Card’ who are reminding and encouraging people to support independent shops and creatives.
Trinity Square, Axminster
Words by Stephanie Bateman Sweet The Lifestyle Editor