Thursday, 23 January 2014

All about us ....

This is by far the strangest thing I have ever done – an interview with myself. However we are asked a lot about how and why Artichoke began so I will try to answer this the best I can as well as saying a bit about myself.

How long have you been at Artichoke?
Artichoke has been going for about a decade now & I have been there since day one. Initially I worked from home with a girl friend and whilst our children were at school or safely tucked up in bed we would take our transit van full of clothes to fundraising events in Norfolk & Suffolk.

Why did you chose to open a shop on and industrial estate in Hackford – which some might think is the middle of nowhere – rather than your local High Street?
Once Artichoke outgrew my home I started looking for premises but soon realised that the logistics of running a mobile shop from somewhere like Wymondham High Street would be a nightmare. We needed to have doorstep parking (initially for our van, although it has proved invaluable for a lot of our customers!) be accessible and near other outlets. Hackford is ideal as it is almost in the centre of Norfolk, on the main road from Watton to Norwich and less than a mile away from two of Norfolk’s best known shoe shops Unisa & Romba Footwear.

What is the ethos behind Artichoke?
Mary Portas famously highlighted the difficulties that the age 40 plus urban woman has shopping on the High Street.  As a customer recently said to us – if you add ‘who lives in the country’ into the equation you might as well forget it! We hope we solve that dilemma.
Budget is also a consideration for us - we want our customers to feel fabulous without breaking the bank.

Do you have a background in retail?
Not at all and so it has been a sharp learning curve. Before I had my children, although married to a Norfolk pig farmer, I was still pursuing my career heading up the sales team of a shipping company based in Essex. Once I had my daughter however I moved up to Norfolk permanently and haven’t really left the county much since…..can’t believe I just said that but it is true!

What do you like most about your job
I Love my job!
I love meeting hundreds of fabulous women each year……
I feel privileged to be able to give something back to society –each year Artichoke donates over £6000 to East Anglian Charities as well as helping them raise over ten times that amount.
When at Hackford I love the fun that we have with customers that have become friends – helping them through the inevitable lows in life as well as sharing the highs…..
I love helping someone who has had a wobble get her confidence back. Very often all it takes is something as simple as a cracking pair of jeans to put some sassy back into their step!
This could be a very long answer so it might be easier to say what I hate – admin!

What is your personal style signifier? i.e. what is it about you that people recognise as you?
Cropped bleached hair and red lipstick.
I had both when I was seventeen and have never seen much point of going off message since. I think the proper term is having a ‘classic outlook to style’. Really I am just boring and busy. 

My lovely new Beetle bag from Artichoke

What was your last purchase?
My last purchase from Artichoke was my fabby LouenHide Beetle bag. Before I had my children I always had small, stylish handbags but for the past seventeen years have fallen into the habit of carrying a small suitcase around with me. My New Years resolution this year was to give my shoulders and back a break and the Beetle ticks all the boxes. Compact and stylish as well as practical and hard wearing.

My last purchase from another shop was these lovely boots from our neighbours Unisa – a bargain in their winter sale – reduced from £200 to £40!

What is in your wardrobe?
Not a lot. People are always surprised that Andrea and I don’t have vast clothing collections. We select a few pieces each season, wear them to death and then
Pass them on. The exception to this is posh frocks and evening wear as I no longer have a life so they go on for ever!

What is your favourite piece? (s)
Without doubt my Anna Montanna stretch jeans – they are by far the most comfortable jeans I have ever had. Not as popular in the shop as the MonikaDora styles as they are a skinny rather than straight leg, they are for me perfection. I wear the Capri cut in the summer too.
My Anna Montanna Skinny Jeans again from Artichoke

What do you in your spare time
With two teenage children, a senile cat, two dogs, 60 sheep and about 400 pigs I don’t have a lot! I do however love food so like to go out for a meal on the rare occasions I can stay awake later than 9 o’clock

What was the last meal that truly impressed you.
Sunday’s roast when I cooked some of our own Scotts Field Pork. I never cease to be amazed by the succulence and taste of our Large Black Pork and am incredibly proud of the amazing job that my husband does.
Before that I was bowled over by the spread that our friends Chris & Sandy served at their Christmas bash – it is my ambition to be like an elderly gentle lady of yore and take myself to live at their lovely B & B, Ladywood Lodge
On the going out front it is Strattons every time.

What is the book on your bedside table?
These change regularily as although I don’t watch a lot of telly I am an avid reader. A lot of the books I inherit from friends as we tend to pass everything we have read on. At the moment it is ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer. Something I would not have bought but am so pleased I have been given as I am loving every word.

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