Saddler & Co, specializes in custom saddles, leather goods and artisan wares. Founded in 2014 by husband-and-wife team Bede and Jemima Aldridge the Saddler & Co brand grew from Bede’s life-long love of horses and riding. After learning the craft of saddle making by apprenticing with some of the best craftsmen in Australia, Bede established his saddle-making workshop in 2010. This work led the partners to design a unique collection of leather goods, including belts, bags, and riding whips. In 2016 Bede and Jemima opened Saddler & Co to showcase their range of leather goods. The Aldridges, busy parents of five young boys, share their journey with The Shopkeepers.
Who designed the shop? We designed the shop ourselves, renovating an old warehouse from scratch.
Where are your products sourced and made? We make all the Saddler & Co products in-house, sourcing our leather from Australian suppliers who import from the best tanneries in the UK, Europe, New Zealand, and U.S. We are gradually showcasing a curated selection of makers and artisans through our shop, and these represent other brands whose design and process we respect.
What are your best selling items? Our beautiful leather totes are by far our most popular product over the years. We introduced the Market tote in 2014.
What makes your shop unique? We are relatively young makers, bringing a modern touch to a traditional trade. We are driven to use our shop as a platform from which to offer an intensely personal experience of high quality work, beautiful styling inspiration, and a real connection with the maker.
Who are your customers? We seek to appeal to discerning men and women who appreciate fine craftsmanship, and this ranges from the city dweller to the country land owner. Our clients have an appreciation for classic elegance and seek out brands that are well designed, ethically made, and emanate timeless style.
Bede & Jemima Aldridge, The Shopkeepers at Saddler & Co
Who inspires you? We are inspired by those who are able to create an original and consistent voice to their brand.
What inspires you? In our daily work we are inspired by the nature of leather which can endure for years with a little care. This motivates us to create items with intention and purpose. We are inspired to tell a consistent story through our brand. Our driving force is a desire for excellence, creativity, and the improvement of our skills each day.
Before we were shopkeepers, we…. worked from our home garage, converted into a workshop where we made our products, and offered service to customers who would walk up our driveway.
The hardest lesson learned starting a business? It takes many years, and much grit. There is no such thing as regular 9-5 job hours, rather there are many late nights and no shortcuts to success.
What task do you like to delegate? We like to delegate the book keeping to someone who specialises in this work!
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? People love to be welcomed, experience new things, and feel connected to the process. A shop can provide a way to meet all these needs. And we love the personal interactions that develop through face to face connection.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Think long and hard about your strengths, your weaknesses, and your purpose as a shopkeeper. Be creative and let your true self shine through the way you build a store and connect to your customers.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? For Bede, he would most likely be a Station hand, riding horses and working on a remote Australian property. For Jemima, she would love a Creative studio in which to design, arrange flowers, write and sketch.
What is your perfect day off? A perfect day off would involve spending time with our young family of boys, traveling and exploring new places off the beaten track together.
Do you have five favorite shops? Locally we love popping into The Meadow, a shop overflowing with florals and greenery. We have a huge respect for the folks at Bespoke Letterpress located in Bowral, NSW who have worked to give our branding a timeless facelift and also letter pressed our swing tags. We also love the work of Sibella Court and the Society Inc.. Scout House based in St Kilda, Melbourne is a treasure trove and our vintage enamel lights over the workbench were sourced from their collection of wares. We have been inspired by the work and store of Wootten, a traditional boot maker and leather craftsman also located in Melbourne.
A favorite neighborhood coffee shop? We love our regular visits to Press. We have loved seeing how the owner couple have renovated a heritage building in Dubbo, the former office of the Land newspaper and turned Press into a progressive cafe, restaurant and coffee roaster.
We wish we could… Travel more! The responsibilities of a shopkeeper mean that it requires much organisation and a strong team to allow for any leisure time away from the business.
On the Future of Retail
“Customers are seeking authenticity and meaning. They are jaded with mass production, and ready for something different. We think that it will be the thoughtful shopkeepers who will have an intrinsic part to play in creating enriching experiences that centre on educating their customers, providing value, and a personal connection.”
1a Sterling St, Dubbo NSW
Photography by Abbie Melle