Darlington’s independent shops, perfect for shopping for Mother’s Day gifts – and the mums who inspired businesses
Mother’s Day is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking – if you haven’t already – about how to treat the special women in your life.
Whether you’re looking for something from your mum (or mum), a grandparent, a special parent, or buying gifts that your kids will take credit for, we’ve wandered around Darlington to see how you can support local businesses in this year’s selection. appreciation gift. From independent jewelers and florists to fashion boutiques and bakeries, we’re talking to business owners across the city to see what’s proving popular in 2022.
On Blackwellgate, Betty’s Boudoir is run by mother-daughter team Cheryl Grundy and Lily Ho, who offer a variety of unique clothing, handbags and accessories. For affordable yet beautiful items, the boutique, which opened its first store in Darlington last year, is one of many independent fashion retailers worth exploring.
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Lily said: “The name comes from my Nana Betty as I always liked the name. I said if I had a baby I would name her Betty but the shop came first.
“My mum runs the Sedgefield store and I took Darlington but we shop together – so we have plenty of options to suit people of all ages and sizes.
“We make a lot of jewelry which is always popular for gifts and handbags have also caught people’s attention as Mother’s Day approaches. We make a lot of one-size-fits-all items so it works well for a gift even if you don’t know their size.”
Lily and Cheryl opened their Sedgefield store four years ago and now employ two additional staff in both stores. The 26-year-old added: “We’ve worked a lot with House of Zana, who make some of the items we offer, and one day I was walking around here and saw the store empty and thought it would be a nice space for us to fill.
“It’s in the most independent neighborhood in town, which really fits our vibe. We want to shop small and support locals while working with the businesses around us.”
As you stroll through Post House Wynd, you’ll find a variety of bakeries, boutiques, and jewelers, including the unique interior boutique, Gillian Arnold. All of the stunning and colorful interior features are created by the 50-year-old artist, whose unique lampshades actually hang from the buildings above the bustling shopping area.
Based in Darlington for nearly five years, the shop showcases lampshades, cushions and furniture, with production of all handmade items taking place upstairs. With a team of 18, the artist’s business has gone from strength to strength and her wares are stocked online and in interior stores across the country.
“I’m a plant picking queen, this is where it all starts and ends with me,” said Gillian, who lives in Bishop Auckland. “We have a ‘picked, pressed, printed’ slogan.
“I like plants that have a story, the ones that I can choose from my yard wall that are very stubborn but very printable and stand the test of time. Take this plant that I pulled from a wall and make it really beautiful, that’s an amazing thing in itself.”
It is the colorful and quirky interior items that attract customers to the store, as decorative floor lamps prove to be the most popular among shoppers.
Gillian added: “Interior products are sought after, floor lamps are probably our biggest selling item, then drum shades and cushions. When we started we couldn’t sell a cushion for love or money – and then it’s just been transformative, we can’t do enough fast enough.”
And in keeping with the Mother’s Day theme, it was Gillian’s mother’s love of gardening and all things floral that inspired the artist to follow her current path.
“My mum is a keen gardener and when she grew her flowers I would squeeze them and kill them,” laughs Gillian. “She would tell me to come and show me different flowers and she has this admiration for the beauty of flowers that I just didn’t have time for when I was younger.
“I’m like her now and it’s more that my love of flowers is in a different form than hers. It’s not about having a garden, I have a garden. I guess that’s my garden.”
Speaking of flowers, there’s nothing like a stunning bouquet to say “I love you” on Mother’s Day and there are a number of independent florists offering some sensational blooms this year. . Heavenly Scent and Claire Metcalfe’s Florist, both in Bondgate, and Eliza Blooms, in Duke Street, are just a few of the independent options available.
Walking down Clark’s Yard, Claire and Katy Barnes of The Cheese and Wine Shop prepare Mother’s Day baskets, containing an array of delicious cheeses made by women accompanied by a bottle of wine, crackers and chutneys. The couple took over the business in 2019 and, after weathering a global pandemic, now deliver to customers across the country as well as from their Darlington store.
Claire, 34, said: “We built a social media presence and when the pandemic hit we developed a whole new customer base across Teesside and County Durham and now deliver nationwide. We let’s get different cheeses in rotation at the time the Summer Truffle Brie is very popular.
“We also do different chutneys, crackers, beers – it’s like a little European deli with items from Italy and Spain that gives it that authentic feel. We’ve also opened a tasting room, Wedge and Tipple, which is so much fun and all the tastings booked up quickly.
“The Mother’s Day basket includes three cheeses – one hard, one soft and one blue – which were created by women, we really wanted to champion women for the occasion.”
This year’s Mother’s Day brunch preview is already sold out, but there are still spaces left in some of next month’s sessions if you fancy booking something different for a late-night treat.
For the special ladies with a sweet tooth, there are plenty of delicious baked goods in the city. The Phixx Coffee Lounge, which opened in Skinnergate in 2019, is offering its sought-after boxes of brownies as Mother’s Day approaches.
When lockdown hit, just six months after Amy and Chris Alderson opened the cafe, it was the brownie boxes that got their name while everything was closed.
Amy said: “I think in a way it really helped us. It was really scary. We started making the boxes of brownies and we were getting a lot of orders for them.
“Everyone was living off takeaways during lockdown and people loved them. Now we have people coming in and picking what they want from the counter. We’re making a coconut brownie that nowhere else – coconut is a love or hate thing but it’s proving popular.”
In High Row, the new joint of sweet treats, Harry’s Handmade Donuts, offers a Mother’s Day bouquet with a twist. The Mouthwatering Giveaway offers six of their best-selling donuts presented perfectly for the occasion and ready to pick up on Saturday, March 27.
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