Midgley Green specializes in contemporary crafts from British makers, alongside beautifully designed and functional homeware products. The shop, designed by partners Seamus Green and Katherine Midgley, opened in March 2017, building on their successful online shop that launched in 2015. Visitors to Midgley Green are treated to a warm welcome from Bailey, the shop’s resident cocker spaniel.
What are you famous for? We’re known for our one off pieces by British makers. For a good while we ran a series of collaborative projects that delved deeper into each craftsperson’s practice, often ending in a sculptural collection of functional wares. The undercurrent to our business has remained the same from the very beginning, we showcase, and ultimately hope to support, British makers that we feel we have a connection to their practices.
What makes your shop unique? I think most of our customers would say our Victorian Minton floor!… it’s a bit of a showstopper. I think we would say our different approach to retail; we want to be friendly and supportive. Both with every maker that we stock, and customer that walks through our door… we love a good chat. Having visited a vast amount of studios across the country we can talk all day about where each maker is based, what influences them and how they came to designing each piece.
Who are your customers? We have a variety of customers; someone might visit who can name every maker in the shop, where as others may be sold by the vision that we portray. In a small way we hope we can make people think differently about what they put into their home and by buying with us they are helping to support a group of skilled contemporary makers.
How has the internet impacted your business? Internet is very important to us, it’s where Midgley Green began as a small online shop. With the internet and social media we have grown our business organically with only the small investment we could afford ourselves. Starting how we did has allowed us to find our feet and figure out what works for us. I don’t think we would have been able to do it the other way around, the products and story came first then it was about finding the space to match. The internet as a way of growing our business will remain to be an important part. However, thankfully as important as the internet is we do feel that the face to face interaction you get in a physical shop is still a valued part of the shopping experience.
Seamus Green & Katherine Midgley, shopkeepers at Midgley Green
Who inspires you? All of the makers we work with inspire us a great deal, we try to establish long lasting relationships with everyone we work with, many have become good friends. The passion from all of these crafts people is amazing, the skill and hours spent building that up is very inspiring.
Before you were shopkeepers…. We both managed a restaurant called the Ethicurean, a beautiful place sat within the walls of a walled kitchen garden overlooking the Mendip Hills. It was great to work in such a breathtaking environment, meeting lots of interesting people but we longed to do something more creative and have our own project. Having both studied Fine Art before that, we dreamed of opening a shop to showcase British makers, many who we met at our time at university.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Patience. It’s really hard not to want to do everything all at once, it takes time for things to happen but when you are putting yourself out in the world to be judged as a business and shop it is hard to get everything to a place where you feel satisfied. Whether this be the shop itself, our stock, social media or sales… We certainly haven’t got enough patience yet but hopefully we are getting there. We started on a very limited budget and we have to be sensible… it also wouldn’t leave us a very exciting future if we could do everything we wanted immediately.
What task do you like to delegate? The tax return!
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Stick with your gut feeling, there have probably been times when we have made decisions that didn’t sit quite right with us and they always turn out to be the ones that we’ve regretted. But on the other hand, there have been times when people have probably thought ‘what an earth are you doing?’ but we’ve followed our gut feeling regardless. Those decisions, when they work out, have been our proudest to make, taking the leap to be self employed and opening a physical shop would be one of them.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Again… Patience, waiting for the right space in the right place is key.
We were really lucky with our shop, its one we’ve always kept an eye on, and when we heard that it was becoming available we leapt head first. We can’t think of anywhere we would rather be. Many people have said to us ‘Build it and they will come’ I think that is true, for us having the right environment for what you’re selling is so important.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? To be honest forget famous people! We love meeting fellow business owners, creatives, makers and of course shopkeepers, we gain a lot from all those conversations. However if we were pushed we would have to have Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs) or Monty Don (Gardener & Journalist) in, both have an honesty and integrity that we respect.
What is your perfect day off? We are country bumpkins at heart so we would say a nice long walk!
Do you have five favorite shops? Baileys Home – For obvious reasons, beautiful things, in a beautiful space, imaginatively displayed. They show how it should be done. Horse and Crook – Lovely little shop housed in what was the village pub in quaint Dunster, Somerset. Virtually no online presence but we have had countless hours of conversations with shopkeeper Abigail Larter, not to mention often leaving with an empty purse. Folklore – A small shop in Falmouth Cornwall run by a group of young makers selling their own work, small but perfectly formed. Makers and Brothers – Gorgeous online shop and project developed by brothers Jonathan and Mark Legge. Everyday design and craft, effortlessly cool. Ryder and Hope – A lovely old shop building in Lyme Regis houses Ryder and Hope, a real treat, pottery, textiles, plants are just some of the items to be found.
Favorite neighborhood coffee shop and restaurant. The best coffee shop in the neighborhood is 67 Barista, cool little place with a very good flat white, the other half of the space is a barbershop. Best restaurant near us is Murrays, restaurant and deli specialising in Italian produce, the food is superb. Or further afield, a 25 minute drive… our former home – The Ethicurean, arguably one of the best restaurants in the south west, and it definitely has the most incredible views.
On the Future of Retail
“We feel it is encouraging. It feels like times are changing and people are starting to again value shops and independents. I think it will be increasingly important for shops to diversify and make the most of other avenues such as the internet, but one things for sure is there is nothing like visiting a physical space that is a treat for the eyes and senses, customers have realised that too. There is no room for laziness in the future of retail, we’re going to have to work harder than ever to keep offering something special.”
26 Alexandra Road, Clevedon, North Somerset