Shop until you drop
Somerset Life|November 2020
It’s Somerset’s county town, it’s the place to go for the big shops, but Taunton is also home to a thriving independent scene, discovers CATHERINE COURTENAY
CATHERINE COURTENAY

Susie Thomas is Taunton born and bred and passionate about promoting her town’s unique shopping experience. She runs Rocket and Bird in The Courtyard with Jeanette Crawford. It’s a gift shop selling work by various local artists and makers – most of whom live in the Taunton area.

Susie started to promote the ‘Taunton Independent Quarter’, having taken a wander around the Riverside area. “I counted 53 businesses! But no-one was shouting about this,” she says. Promoting it on social media, she started photographing and introducing the shop owners.

“I feel so strongly that it’s the people behind the businesses that matter and they are what makes us stand out.”

The independent shopping areas of Taunton have everything covered, says Jane Armour, going on to list some of what can be found - butchers, bakers and greengrocers, fashion, gifts, hairdressers, florists, jewellers, bookshops, toy shops, picture framers, fabric shops, as well as cafés and restaurants.

Jane runs Jane Armour Trading, which started in Bath Place in 1990 but moved to Riverside Place about five years ago. She sells gifts, and has a huge range of greetings cards, many coming from small publishers. It’s a niche product and hers is one of only a few remaining independent card shops in the country.

She has a loyal band of customers and she’s seen some changes too - the most notable being the number of men now coming in to buy cards and wrapping material.

Recent months have seen national stores closing down, but only a few independents have gone, says Jane, partly because they are used to adapting to meet economic challenges as well as changing customer demands.

Philippe Messy who owns The Little Wine Shop and Social Wine Bar in Foundry Road says that in order to survive he needed to develop his offering, ‘and it made sense to have a wine bar next door’.

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