Brassica Mercantile is a lifestyle shop selling a range of homewares, food, and wine, with a focus on the art of entertaining. Founded in 2015 by Louise Chidgey, in the space next door to her husband’s restaurant, Brassica.
Why did you want to open Brassica Mercantile? I started my career at the Conran Shop, London, as a buyer over 20 years ago, always with the mindset to have my own shop/restaurant one day. Nearly 20 years to the day I opened it! The shop next door to our restaurant (Brassica) became available, and I jumped at the chance. We had a plan when leaving London a few years ago to marry our skills and experience together to establish a space where the retail and restaurant was combined. My husband had founded Canteen in London with a couple of friends and was ready to leave London and hone his skills to a smaller restaurant venture.
Who designed the shop? I did, using some of my own furniture, alongside pieces by Russell Pinch, Benchmark and Hay.
What are your best selling items/categories? Locally we are known for specialized items you wouldn’t find in the local Dorset environs such as specialist food and fine wines. On top of this, I have a keen eye for particular colour, and pattern combinations. I choose products which immediately appeal to me, yet also have a practical and perhaps timeless element, which in turn allows items to be used daily instead of just for display!
Where is your product sourced/made? I mainly look to Europe – France, Spain and Italy but also work with studios in South Africa and a women’s group in Kenya. I source from personal knowledge of having travelled as a buyer for the last two decades, but also in the capacity as a trend forecaster where I was able to scour the globe for talent.
What makes your shop unique? I think it is my personal edit that makes it unique, and striving for unique products too. The food element is very much based on ingredients we use in the restaurant, and often customers who have eaten lunch will pop in afterwards looking for anything from the piccalilli my husband has made, to the wine they have drunk…all of which is for sale.
Who are your customers? Mainly customers from the restaurant during the week, and at weekends, and holidays, you have tourists and second homers – many who come down from London and appreciate a curated approach to shopping. Online customers vary – I send all over England, but the bulk of the orders come from Londoners.
Who inspires you? Francoise Dorget, who founded the Caravane stores in Paris – every time I visit I find something to covet. Artists such as Gary Hulme, Etel Adnan, Beatriz Milhazes and Matisse. I also love Russell and Oona Pinch of Pinch Design, who continue to do fabulous work.
What inspires you? Travel! I am constantly inspired by different cultures and their crafts, as well as museums and art galleries from MoMA and the Whitney in New York, to Hauser & Wirth in Somerset.
Before I was a shopkeeper I was a trend and style forecaster.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Keeping calm and looking at the bigger picture, instead of each individual day.
What tasks do you like to delegate? Updating, and monitoring my back-end inventory of products.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Businesses take time to grow but continue to generate and nurture ideas for a progressive future.
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Location, location, location…and get an idea of footfall!
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Patricia Urquiola – she is my design hero!
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be…a restaurateur!
What is your perfect day off? Spending time with my family at home, and entertaining friends for lunch. We are lucky enough to live on top of a beautiful hill in Mapperton, Dorset, looking down to the sea.
On the Future of Retail
“Digital sadly. More and more customers are ordering goods on smart phones and small devices, therefore intelligent and intuitive websites with great graphics, and navigation is super important – something I need to allocate some budget for in order to re-do my website! In terms of product, it is so important to be as unique as much as one can, as the internet has made sourcing and pricing so much more competitive.”
By Stephanie Bateman Sweet The Lifestyle Editor
3 The Square, Beaminster, Dorset, UK