Having started selling homewares and painted furniture at various fairs and online, and adjusting to her new role as a busy Mum to son, Einar (now 15 months old), Libby Hobbs decided to follow her dream and open a bricks and mortar shop. “I have wanted to open a space that housed products and artworks from many makers for as long as I can remember. I’ve had many ideas about following other careers, however I have always come back to this dream.” &hobbs opened its big, black rustic doors on 6th August 2016 and we’re delighted to share Libby’s shopkeeper journey.
Situated in Shere, a pretty picture-postcard village in Surrey, lined with Tudor buildings and rambling brooks, &hobbs is housed in an attractive black and white pitch-roofed building. Originally the village forge, up until three years ago, the current owners heard about Libby’s online business and approached her with a view to renting the old forge. “They knew that I worked with other makers and wanted to do workshops, and they were keen on the idea that the space was being used by the community to be kept as a making environment.”
The previous tenant, an artist, had installed a small room upstairs (where workshops are now held), but the space was a big, open-plan blank space, complete with the large stone forge fire, which is lit on colder days. Libby, along with carpenter husband Josh, revamped the space, painted the walls, and constructed a counter and shelves in good old-fashioned chipboard. “We wanted to use a recycled material, something industrial to give it a nice raw finish. Anything perfect in here just wouldn’t work, we wanted a more rough and ready ‘making’ environment!” The result is a pared-back utilitarian interior that showcases Libby’s curated collection of homewares and lifestyle accessories beautifully.
From linens, body care, enamelware, candles, greeting cards and vintage collectibles, the shelves are lined with an eclectic array of the coveted and useful. “Honest skincare was my first ever supplier and a big milestone for me to be able to take the work of another supplier. We also stock Hobo soy candles , macramé by Amy Marchment, greeting cards from Lola Hoad of LH Design , and Katie Housley, Tom Lane’s beautifully soft alpaca socks, and I always like to have fresh plants and flowers bought locally from Kingfisher Farm Shop.
“Opening the shop and juggling the role of being a Mum has been very challenging, but also the most rewarding. When you are a sole trader you need the support of family, friends and a network around you of supporters all at the side lines, waving the flags, and shouting words of encouragement – I am thankful that I have that around me every day. Libby’s shop also feels very much like a social and creative hub for like-minded souls, as she also runs her busy calendar of creative workshops. Various pastimes are explored and enjoyed, including weaving, sewing, calligraphy and felting. “I want people to learn and be inspired, roll up their sleeves, gain a new skill or develop one. Time to turn off their phones and get in touch with basic making skills…and of course have fun!”
Who or what inspires you? I know this sounds cliché, but my family. My Mother always made our home our safe place, whatever was happening in the background, and I am forever grateful for that. I feel passionately that everyone should have a place they feel safe and at ease within. Those little moments within the home that make it the place that enable you to be you, share your day and encourage your families character. I know that this is my aim for my own space that I share with my husband, son and pup.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I was….A display artist for Anthropologie.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? There are never enough hours in a day.
What tasks do you like to delegate? None…I’m a control freak! If you want a job done properly and all that!
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Not to rush. It feels like you have to achieve everything immediately, but you don’t. In fact, the more I rush decisions and the more I cram in, the more things I drop or leave half finished.
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Do your research!
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Ooh, that’s a tricky one…I would say that I’d rather someone unknown, but that totally inspires me.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be…Walking bare foot every morning on a beach!
What is your perfect day off? Turning off my phone, enjoying a slow start, then going out into the woods, babe in the car, then off to the sea. A picnic on the beach, the sound of the sea and skies full of stories, then back home.
Can you share your five favourite shops? I am ashamed to say it’s been a while since I’ve gone out and about (the down side to running your own store is that you don’t get chance to visit others!), so five that I am desperate to visit are: Workshop Living, Brighton; O’Dell’s, London; Merchant & Mills, Rye; 42 Juice, Brighton for some goodness! From Victoria, Lewes; Meek Vintage, Denver, USA is a store that is jam packed full of goodies for your home that are full of stories to tell.
What is you favorite neighbourhood coffee shop/restaurant? Not quite in my neighbourhood, but The Crown & Anchor in Chichester has good food and great views.
I wish I could…Have Bernard’s Watch. It was a children’s programme I used to watch when I was very young. It was about a magic pocket watch that could stop time, which I would love so that I could complete all my jobs, then start time and carry on with my day!
On the Future of Retail
“Gosh…I really hope I am still right here! I do see more independent stores taking up space on our high streets, it really is the only way for us to grow as a community. After all, we are a country of makers…so let’s make!”
The Forge, Middle St., Shere, UK
Words & Photographs: Stephanie Bateman Sweet The Lifestyle Editor
Shopkeeper Photo: Emily Walker