Shop Talk: Velvet takes a lovely stroll along Trinity Street
David Robinson, Heffers
I’ve managed the store for almost 15 years and worked for Blackwell’s, the parent company, for almost 30. Obviously I was only 10 when I started. . .
Like everyone who ever applies for a job in a bookshop, I love books. Everyone at university predicted I’d end up working in a bookshop, except they thought it would be a secondhand bookshop with a rocking chair and a few cats.
People have a real fondness for Heffers. It’s been here for more than 140 years, so it’s part of the city. It has changed a lot in the last five years - take the games and stationery departments - but you still walk in and it feels like Heffers, nowhere else. We know the shop sold games back in the Seventies and was described as a stationer’s when it opened in 1876, so, though it’s primarily a bookshop, it has got a history of selling other things.
Trinity Street is, I think, the place where Town and Gown jigsaw together most closely; with its mixture of colleges and shops, of ancient and modern, it’s Cambridge in microcosm.
Ashley Bacchus, Reiss
I grew up in Cambridge and love coming to work in the heart of the city every day; to me, Trinity Street is the heart of the city. I love the beautiful buildings and the buzzy vibe: Trinity Street is always full of shoppers and students and tourists.
I’ve been store manager at Reiss for four and a half years and it’s a great brand to work for. It’s still a little bit of a hidden gem on the high street, I think. The clothes are fashion-forward, sexy, beautiful quality and a bit different, too. All the collections are built around prints and colour stories - the rainforest print has been incredibly popular for spring/summer.
Hannah Roche, Space NK
Not a day goes by when I don’t discover a product I want to try or buy; working here never gets old for me. Space NK is heaven, isn’t it?
A luxury beauty boutique, it provides a bespoke service for every customer: we stock a huge range of brands, many of which you won’t find anywhere else on the high street, and we offer completely unbiased advice.
In the Cambridge store, our best-selling brand is one of our newest: Drunk Elephant, a skincare range formulated in the US and free from what they call the ‘Suspicious Six’ - silicones, fragrances, dyes, drying alcohols. . .
Trinity Street has got a great sense of history because of all the beautiful college buildings, but it’s also got a lovely energy to it.
Sophie Gill, Toast
Toast opened on Trinity Street two years ago as a pop-up and I’m pleased to say it’s here to stay: we’ve just had a refit and the shop looks lovely!
I’m only in my fourth week as store manager, but I’ve always admired Toast as a brand. It takes a very creative approach and the pieces are unique; a number of our prints are designed and made by hand in India. And, as well as being beautiful, the clothes are incredibly comfortable to wear.
I worked at Hotel Chocolat in Lion Yard before coming here and I do feel lucky to work in such a beautiful part of the city, with such a nice tradition to it.
Darryl Browne, Up & Running
Ours is the only sports shop in the city centre to offer a fitting service for running shoes, complete with gait analysis. We have some great brands, from Asics, which everyone will have heard of, to Altra, which is a bit different: the shoes have zero drop - running shoes usually have a built-up heel, so there’s an incline from front to back - and a shaped toe box, to create that bare-foot feeling.
I’ve worked here for eight years, since the shop opened in July 2011. As well as managing this store, I’m a clothing buyer for the company - it now has 23 stores altogether. We get a lot of people coming here from out of town for fittings - from King’s Lynn, from Ipswich - and I think that says a lot.
Mehmet Pekdemir, SageBrown
SageBrown is a family-run business: myself and my wife run it and are still out on the shop floor every day. We design everything ourselves and manufacture everything ourselves, too - we have our own small workshop in Turkey. We started with one shop in London, then a second, then this store in Cambridge, which opened last year; we live near St Neots and think of Cambridge as ‘our’ city, so it means a lot to have a shop here.
The quality of our bags is incredibly high: the woven leather pieces are all woven by hand and all the bags are leather-lined too, for that extra sense of luxury. It’s affordable luxury: a starting price for one of our bags is £165 and the average is just under £200.
Lauren Nichols, SageBrown
I’ve been store manager for a few months now and I love the individuality of the bags. Every design comes in a whole range of colours - from mustard to red to purple to classic tan and black - and we can create bespoke pieces, too: if you want that bag but in this colour, we can do that for you.
Our location is perfect, I think. We’re right opposite The Ivy and Trinity; having restaurants close by is great for footfall. It’s brilliant when you see ladies sitting in the window of Trinity, looking over at our bags, then not being able to resist coming in for a browse when they finish their lunch.
Sarah Ashwood, Comptoir des Cotonniers
Comptoir des Cotonniers is a French brand, which turns 24 this month. It creates clothes for every woman, for every age. Everything’s mix and match and the materials are 85% natural, which our customers really appreciate. The linen separates are among our most popular pieces; there’s a new, more rustic linen collection in this summer, which everyone’s loving.
I’ve been store manager for nearly eight years. I actually got headhunted for this job and am now UK product trainer for the brand. I love it: first and foremost, I really enjoy wearing the clothes.
The shop itself has got a great sense of history to it. We think it used to be an optician’s at one point, as there are still old signs on some of the doors downstairs.
We get a great mix of customers, from tourists and parents of students to academics - we’re very popular with the academics.
Anne Bannell, Jacks on Trinity
My husband and I have been retailing on Trinity Street since 1985: we started with Anne Rowena in what’s now Giles & Co, sister shop to Jacks, and have been trading on the street ever since - we love it.
Jacks opened six years ago. Before that it was a home and gift store called Breeze, but we realised we needed to evolve. When we first opened, we majored on retro British, but that’s changed: there are lots more Cambridge-specific gifts now, and, led by customer demand, we stock a huge range of Harry Potter merchandise, as well as smaller ranges inspired by other iconic British characters, like Paddington, Mary Poppins and Winnie-the-Pooh.
Trinity Street is quite special: it’s got all the beauty and history of Cambridge, but it’s also moved with the times - there’s a brilliant mix of shops. After 34 years on the street, we consider ourselves very lucky to still be here.
Julia Lopez-Canelada, Seasalt
Seasalt opened on Trinity Street in August last year, to a queue of customers! We celebrated our opening in true Cornish style with saffron buns and free fashion portraits by illustrator Melissa Bailey – we had such a brilliant day.
Seasalt’s in-house team of fashion and textile designers, fine artists and illustrators, creates all the collections from studios overlooking Falmouth Bay, inspired by Cornwall’s landscape and vibrant artistic culture.
Our shop was also designed by our Cornwall-based store team. The steam bent furniture and lighting is by Tom Raffield, a designer and maker based just outside Helston. Cut By Beam, another business local to Falmouth, has engraved a bespoke design into the oak floorboards, which sit alongside handcrafted tiles from the Leach Pottery in St Ives.
Although we’re inspired by Cornwall every day, we feel totally at home in beautiful Trinity Street with all it has to offer, and have had a wonderful welcome.
Diary date: Cambridge BID will be celebrating Independents’ Week from July 4 to 7: flying the flag for the city’s 250 independent businesses, it will see some very special in-store offers available. More information can be found at cambridgebid.co.uk
Pictures by Keith Heppell