Opening in March 2016, in the picturesque market town of Godalming, Surrey, Wattle & Daub is a stylishly curated lifestyle store, and workshop space. Meticulously merchandised with an ever-changing seasonal colour palette, owner Gemma Lewis sources an eclectic mix of homewares, vintage pieces, artisan woodwork, apothecary, fashion accessories and faux and fresh botanicals. “I have always loved interiors and hunting down those special pieces that someone else has discarded. I really believe that it’s possible for anyone, on any budget to create a unique space by choosing carefully sourced pieces, and layering in those curiosities discovered over time – plus there was definitely a gap in Godalming for something a little different.”
Gemma had set ideas on how she wanted the interior of her shop to be and created rustic-style shelves with crates, added a dark and moody paint palette to the walls, and installed an old fireplace surround to add more character. “I was really lucky that these premises already had so much charm, so it was a case of just adding to the features that were already there. We also used three-dimensional wall panelling to create a counter, which added some texture to the space.” Gemma realises that brick and mortar shops need to be constantly refreshed and she is often repainting parts of the shop every few months to give it a different mood. “It has been green, pink, indigo blue, purple, brown, aubergine and is currently painted in Pine Martin by Colourtrend!”
Wattle & Daub is also known for its social side and Gemma, alongside her assistant Beverly, can often be found advising their loyal customers on their creative and interior projects. “The shop is a very sociable place and we regularly hold creative workshops and invites artisans, designers and makers to share their craft in a room next to the shop. The space has also proved popular for co-working on a Thursday, where small independent businesses come to learn from each other. I suppose the romantic notion of owning a shop drew me in – it all started with a red cash register I owned when I was five! At first, I focused a lot on the sourcing of our products, however as the business continues to evolve, I am looking at ways where I can create as well as curate. We make our own seasonal wreaths, linen bags, plus lavender pillows and gorgeous moth chasers in vintage fabrics.”
The price point of her products has also been very important to Gemma and the shop sells a wide range to meet the local customers’ expectation, without compromising on the quality. She regularly mixes in salvaged pieces, to show people how to create a home that is unique to them, realising that it is important to create a very unique feel to the brand, and sourcing products that work together to present a cohesive look and that you cannot find easily elsewhere.
“I have worked hard to create a unique experience when you step through the doors of Wattle & Daub. The introduction of each new collection brings a number of different colour combinations, textures, displays and creations. I change the window displays often, which are normally an installation of some kind. I use the shop to demonstrate how to work with different colours, and as you walk through the space, there is an intentional flow. Our customers want to create a home that is completely unique to them, by choosing carefully sourced pieces, embracing colour and who love finding individual pieces, old and new that cannot be found on every high street. Our customers are also people that go out of their way to support other small, local, independent businesses.”
Gemma Lewis, Wattle & Daub shopkeeper
Who inspires you? People who live, love, laugh (oh and work!) hard.
What inspires you? Travelling – seeing new and old places that are beautiful will always be top of my list for seeking inspiration.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I was…A Human Resources Consultant for 27 years – I started young!
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? It doesn’t necessarily feel like a hard lesson, but more of an interesting insight. It is actually the psychology of shoppers, which having worked in Human Resources, should have been no surprise. It takes a certain kind of customer to enter into an independent shop, where there are only a few people already present – we have the smudges over the window to prove it. It feels easier for some people to visit a shop where nobody acknowledges them or cares particularly whether they are there or not. Although I love a good chat, I am also very happy for people to simply browse in silence and take in the space I have created. If they leave inspired, a little calmer carrying the scent of the shop with them, then that’s good.
What tasks do you like to delegate? I am not the best at delegating, but I happily pass anything technical on to Mr Wattle, (aka my husband!). Beverly, is my right-hand woman in the shop, an expert packer plus a brilliant seamstress, so she is very useful with a needle and thread. Everything else, I do myself with a rather controlling approach!
The best lesson you’ve learned opening a shop? However much money you thought you needed, it’s best to double that figure!
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Don’t! Did I say that out loud? Look, I think it’s obvious that retail is not an easy game at the moment, so I think you need to be very clear on your ‘why’, before you consider it. When you are a destination shop without a high street presence, it is helpful to create different aspects within your business, such as an online shop, a service element, a working studio (if applicable), that supports the brick and mortar shop, plus other opportunities to utilise the space you rent, or have the funds to choose the best possible location with great footfall. In theory it is all about the location. However any business that can occupy a shop with a presence in a town, gives you the added benefit of immediate exposure to show off your brand to passers-by…you already have a captive audience.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? I have a bit of a crush on Lenny Kravitz, but I think at this point I should probably choose a really cool interiors blogger, as I think that could be more beneficial for the business!
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be….A photographer. I do wish many moons ago I had followed a creative path and not a corporate one, but no point looking back now…HR was pretty fun too!
What is your perfect day off? Travel to a city, walk for hours exploring it, drink cocktails in an underground bar and pass out in some gorgeous boutique hotel!
Can you share your five favourite shops? Le Labo; Merci, Paris; Grandpa, Stockholm; All and any junk shop, plus any book shop – I can simply lose myself in such shops for hours on end.
What is your favourite neighbourhood coffee shops? Godalming Deli is a brilliant independent deli, and has just introduced a zero-waste counter, plus Godalming Delights is a new addition to the town, selling the best Italian ice cream ever – try the Creme Caramel if you can!
I wish I could…Have more Whippets!
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“There are some days that I would like to bury my head in the sand and think about anything other than the future of retail. However, on the good days, I do still see an exciting future for retailers who choose to become part of a community. To create an experience within their shop, ideally a multi-functional space, where individuals are able to collaborate, and provide different services and products. There is definitely a growing movement towards supporting independent shops and makers, plus a greater consciousness as to how products are made. Although in the current climate, price point will always be a factor for a large proportion of shoppers, and the need to order something and have it arrive by drone within the hour! So retail through the online community, will only become stronger.”
18-20 Church Street, Godalming
Words & Photographs by Stephanie Bateman Sweet The Lifestyle Editor