Monday, 23 August 2010

Week Two

Veronique swept into our shop, trailing a dove grey chiffon scarf, a perfectly appointed hat of the softest green, a matching parasol, her white hair perfectly coiffed. Her clothes were immaculate, French like her perfume. She introduced herself in the most polite of manner as Veronique, her French accent suiting her perfectly. A school teacher for many years and newly retired, she has moved to London to live with her wonderful son. To an innocent bystander she is an eccentric old lady, living in the past. To us she is a breath of fresh air, a loyal customer and fast becoming our friend. Veronique first came in to buy a toy for her soon to be grandchild, she was back a day later to buy a leather bound copy of 'Far from the madding crowd' and yesterday she popped in for a teapot.
I love my job! It is these chance encounters that gets me out of bed in the mornings. you just never know who is going to walk through your doors. To say that London is quiet in August is an understatement. There are practically tumble weeds rolling past our doors yet we seem to be attracting a steady flow of customers, whether for curiosity's sake or to buy something they have seen in the window we are meeting and greeting so many lovely folk.

This week we celebrated a birthday, Steve's 38th to be precise! We had a huge chocolate cake in the shop and made sure our loyal customers got to share a piece of it with us.

Although when it came to cutting me a slice, Steve wasn't feeling very generous!(mine is the one on the right).

To be fair, I did make him work on his birthday which was rather nasty but just look what he has been working on;





But most of the time, this is where you will find Steve;

Just jokes. It has been quiet enough for Steve to be in the studio shabby chic-ing while I have been dealing with customers. In between I have worked on a few new displays.

The first was my baking goods which I felt needed to be displayed better. I thought I would try to change their use to a visual one and was quite pleased with the outcome.

Amazing what a little blu-Tack and some imagination might achieve.

This would work well on a bare kitchen wall and you could add to it for years to come with all sorts of interesting pieces.

Outside, we have continued adding to our display and created a rather funky shop sign with fake grass feet.

The mantique corner has some new pieces and continues to intrigue the blokes who boldly venture past the pretty prams on the forecourt into the cave of prettiness, the vast expanse of China- bedecked surfaces in the shop.

The new teddies I have been working on have found corners, shelves and cushioned beds to live in.

Although this cheeky chappy sock monkey was placed in a rather unfortunate position of prominence on the desk and it was only while talking to a rather posh elderly lady that Steve decided to bring it to my attention. Steven, really!

Two very exciting other things happened this week. Firstly, Nicholas & Steele will be appearing in the next issue of Darling magazine in an article entitled "Durham Road, The New Village"
For those of you who know the area, Wimbledon Village is the posh end of town were the rich and famous go to see and be seen. It abounds with boutiques, bars and restaurants and has been the hub of exclusive shopping in Wimbledon since The first pig was bought to market. Here on the quiet slopes of the village, is our little Durham road were in the last year, several little independent boutiques have shunned the high rentals of the village, the lack of customer parking, the ever cloned high street and opened their doors to an ever curious public, hungry for user- friendly, home spun, old fashioned shops with old fashioned values.

Secondly, on Saturday a lovely visitor popped into our store an hour before closing. As she walked in, her focus complete, she muttered under her breath, "this store is going to be trouble."
And she wasn't kidding. She left nearly an hour later with Five huge bags of shopping including my favourite tea set, a pale pink 1920's Art Deco set with matching teapot.

and Steve's favourite tea set, a 1930s black Royal Standard set.

She also picked up the pink magazine rack and several other bits.
After leaving five minutes later she rang to ask us to put another set aside and said she would pop in on Monday to pick it up.

This lady happens to be a very famous author and my pink tea set is a gift for an A-list fashion designer. I am not allowed to say who he is. Needless to say he is neither Jewish nor Muslim.
(Answers on a postcard please.) This lovely, lovely lady does research and is best friends with another a-list fashion designer of an exceedingly flamboyant nature and has asked for our help to source a few interesting costume bits etc for him. She has also offered to sign my book I have of hers and said, "I am your fan too" AAAARRAAAAAGGGGHHHHH! (if you think I am over reacting now, you should have seen me in the shop when the penny dropped and I realised who I was talking to...not very cool.)

So all in all it has been a wonderful week full of many surprises and happy moments.

Our new, New Zealand import, Sheep skin lined, lambswool newborn booties.

A Nicholas & Steele favourite, white doves.

A new book corner

Some very sweet little ducklings

A lovely midwinter set which was sold in Woolworths in the 60s.

A retro corner of gigantic crochet 70's throws and Staffordshire stripe crockery.

and Noddy and his remedial chair

In just two weeks Nicholas & Steele feels like it has begun to stamp its little mark on the foothills of Wimbledon Village, from the 'calander girls' who visit us every Wednesday after their fitness class at the church hall across the road and stay for a cup of tea, to our fabulously famous authoress and of course not forgetting the beautiful and graceful Veronique and her hats and matching parasol. To all of them, we are something.

Have a lovely week friends.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


"Get out of this shop now!" yelled the two year old as he stood, feet firmly apart, hands on his hip and crystal blue eyes glaring out from his blond, blunt fringe. I watched in astonishment as the mother in question obeyed. "Alright darling, you look around first and let me know when I can come back in." Once upon a time, 78 Durham Road was a sweet shop. Mrs Jones ran the only sweet shop in Raynes park for 30 years until she sadly passed away. I found myself pondering the thought; I wonder what Mrs Jones would have to say today about the children of West Wimbledon? This prompted me to get on immediately with a project I have been keen to complete. The naughty stool.

I can take no credit for this idea. We first came across it at our little friend, Cameron's first birthday party so we set about finding old stools and painting them up. Yesterday I sign wrote them and Steve waxed them up. I had barely put them out in the shop when a rather frazzled looking mom pulled up outside in her huge 4 wheel drive. As she opened her door I heard the screaming of two boys. "No darlings. Mummy is just posting a letter..ooh, what's this a new shop? No, you can't come in, no don't hit your brother, but you might break something, I said no! Oh alright, but don't touch anything." My heart sank. In barreled a pair of twins. Blond twins around 3 years of age. "Noddyyyyyyyyy! They yelled as they each located my vintage noddy toys, one climbing on the back of an 80 year old toy horse the other clambering over a 60 year old set of Plant Tuscan pink china trios to grab the other from the window display. "We want!"they shouted in unison. "Put Noddys down darlings, they are not toys" she said as she looked at the price tag. I watched in quiet horror as the two then decided each others' Noddies were better and a game of tug of war ensued. "Mummy can't buy them. Daddy will kill me. Put them down, now, I mean it, give it here, give it!" and a tug of war ensued between her and the boys. Finally, she handed the noddies over to me "I think you had better hold onto these" she said as she turned her attention to a long bit of cowboy bunting. "Would you boys like this for your bedroom?" "Yeeeeeeeees!" they shouted in unison. "Oh quickly, before they break something" she said. "I knew this was a bad idea." Is there anything else I could put in the boys bedroom?" She asked....pause.....hmmmmm? I pointed at the naughty stools. It didn't go down too well. Needless to say, the boys were trundled out of the shop, enticed by their mum dangling the bunting at the door saying "look boys, look what mummy bought for your room, come and see." It took her 15 mins to get the boys back into the car.

Poor Noddy was then returned to the relative safety of his horse and lives to fight another day.

It has been a week of ups and downs. We have opened our doors in the middle of the summer holidays and Wimbledon is quiet. A steady flow of curious visitors come in and enjoy browsing. Some are keen vintage supporters and buy something, others are going to take some convincing but that's all part of the job.We knew it would be a slow burn.

It still amazes me when somebody walks in and says, "what is it exactly that you sell?" " and chips", we are tempted to say. It has slowly been dawning on me that the public don't mind what you do but they need to be told what they are looking at. They are not that quick off the mark. So I have felt more like an educator this week and less like a shop proprietor. Hmmmm? Perhaps some 'vintage' lettering in the window might be in order.

I also set about making a 'shop open' sign for the pavement. We used an old fire surround and screwed a teacup onto the top. This was hilarious as so many people came in to say, "Be careful the teacup is going to fall off your sign" haa haaa. (Cunning way of getting folk through the doors.)

I have also begun making my recycled Noddy and Ladybird book gift cards. Already, we have sold a bunch. People love nostalgia.

All in all it has been a great week. So many lovely people have popped in to say hello and have a browse around. Our bank card machine arrived yesterday and I got to use it for the first time. Steve is getting on with some more furniture which we hope will go out on the forecourt.

Mrs Jones might turn in her grave at the changing face of childhood, but I hope she would approve of our little vintage shop on Durham Road and of the first of our 'naughty' range.

Enjoy the weekend lovely friends.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


On the 7th of August 2010, two big events were celebrated in our lives; Roxy's third birthday and the opening of our much dreamed of shop, Nicholas & Steele.

There were cupcakes, pink bubbly, flowers but most exciting of all; customers.
Our first sale was, you guessed it, another charm bracelet! Yay!

We were blessed by a steady flow of both friends and family who came through the doors with great big smiles on their faces and left with bellies full of cupcakes and shopping bags full of loveliness.

Mel, my wonderful friend and talented art student, came to our rescue after I put out a Facebook SOS. I needed cupcakes as I had run out of time to make them myself. An hour later a call came through. Mel had just returned from South Africa and decided to spend her remaining day off being creative, so when she saw my post she volunteered. Having never baked cupcakes before she was a little nervous but just look at the results!

Mel, we love you for being such an over achiever and if you ever tire of social work, there is a little shop in West Wimbledon that will happily sell your cupcakes to an appreciative public.x

Another hero of the day was Mark, Steve's accountant nephew, who took our postcards to Raynes Park Station and high street and handed them out, inviting people to our opening. What a sweetheart.

Steve served cups of tea in mix 'n match china while I served the customers as they made their purchases. What a wonderful and fun day we had. The locals who popped in were very complimentary and it was truly fascinating chatting to them and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. I think our message of 'community is best' was appreciated and we had excellent feedback and financial success.

Thank you to all our friends and family who have supported us through the whole process and made it such fun. To my art class for allowing me to use them as a focus group on so many occassions.

To my colleagues for listening to my mad hat schemes through all those terms at school, and having to help with quality control as each ebay package was opened and judged fit or unfit in the staff room.

To Talitha for our gorgeous and much complimented branding.
Thank you too to my life coach, Sarah who planted in me a seed of self-belief all those months ago and opened my mind to the possibility of an 'otherness.'

To our friend Sue for her humour, kindness and belief in us.

To my parents and family in South Africa who have prayed for us and willed us through all the tough times and to Lynn who has been our publicity machine in the Midlands.

To all our friends and family in Rugby and beyond who have followed our journey and sent such lovely and encouraging messages, we are appreciative.
and finally, to my husband. You have inspired me and been my partner in all things. Thank you for never doubting me and allowing me to fly.

Three weeks ago we stood outside a brown shop that couldn't decide if it was an office or a tandoori restaurant.

Today it is a place of beauty, a place of fun and creativity. As we encounter the people of West Wimbledon and surrounds we want it to be a home away from home, were everyone will find a friendly welcome and a warm cup of tea waiting for them.

The inside no longer feels bare and soulless;

Thank you all, for following our story and for letting us know you were behind us. It is a wonderful feeling to be free of a life, which was devoid of possibility and felt 'wrong'. I lost my way for a while but am back on track and am following my much beloved motto in life which is, and always will be; 'when in doubt, do the courageous thing.'

I have found an old coat I had forgotten about and put it on and discovered..... it's a perfect fit.

Bon Chance everyone!