Me and East
By Kate Marsden
We’re off to Totnes in Devon to visit a beautiful shop in a historic building. Chloe runs her shop Me and East from the same premises her husband’s parents sold their work in for over 40 years, keeping the family tradition of craft and handmade work very much alive…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Chloe and I own a Lifestyle Store in Totnes, Devon called ‘Me and East’. We celebrate the beauty of craft and handmade and stock over 50 British makers covering all craft disciplines. I am a trained jeweller and when I can I make my jewellery in the shop.
What does a typical day involve?
Getting up with my three year old daughter, Orla and partner Max. I come to our shop from Tuesdays to Saturdays to welcome our customers. I race through emails, order more beautiful stock, and I’m always looking for new makers to join us.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
‘Me and East’ which is in the house that my partner Max grew up in was his parents shop for 40 years. They sold a huge range of his Dad’s beautiful furniture and his Mum’s textiles with her loom at the back of the shop. We are honouring the craft that ‘lives’ in this historical Totnes building.
The building is a stunning, slate fronted Totnes town house. We have made ‘Me and East’ a clean, bright, calm and a peaceful environment. A mixture of old furniture pieces including the Post Office sorting boxes which have been in the shop since Max’s parents, and create a lot of attention, and new pieces which Max has made to measure.
When I’m not working, my favourite thing to do is walk along the River Dart at Staverton, be in my garden or be at a lovely restaurant eating a delicious meal, we are lucky to be surrounded by these in this area.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
I think it is a daunting time for all businesses at the moment. Continuing to keep footfall on the high street and to keep the awareness of supporting small businesses is crucial. We need to help our customers understand how many different people they support when they buy something handmade and not mass made.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I hope to continue growing Me and East’s by stocking promoting and working with more makers. There are exciting new independent businesses coming to Rotherfold Square where the shop is, which will create a lovely new environment and create more footfall. I will also continue to organise small craft events and markets.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Be active, be proud! Use social media to grow your business and get more people to see your work. Visit shops and galleries, be inspired, apply for craft markets to immerse in the selling world and talk to the public face to face about your work. And, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help. The independent and small business world is mostly kind, supportive and a community. I’m always talking to other businesses owners about how they do things or getting advice, and likewise could talk endlessly about craft and beauty and joy of being a part of the small businesses there are out there today.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
I don’t think you can expect every customer to buy from your shop or stall. You can’t suit everyone’s taste but it is the people who understand the difficulties of having a small business or are makers or enjoy craft and handmade items who appreciate that even a small purchase makes such a big difference, and this is how we will keep the independent High Street alive.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It is important to help the general public understand how much a little sale or interest makes a difference to any small business. My shop wouldn’t be here if it were not for my returning and new customers. I work really hard to offer a unique experience at ‘Me and East’ and curate the shop in a way that you might not see everywhere. Working with the makers I stock is my absolute joy and I will do all that I can to keep my small business going and help to support makers.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
I saw the campaign on Instagram initially some time ago. It is very present on social media and I think the Just a Card team work hard to get the campaign seen and heard.
I think Instagram is the best creative outlet for independent businesses and makers. It is the perfect way to tell your story, sell your products and connect with others.
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
Continue to promote and support the campaign. Where you can, buy from an independent business or maker. Look out for the shop window stickers and see who’s helping to support the campaign. Share, talk and support.