Jules and Gems
Julie Ashton’s boutique sells jewellery and accessories. Unique and individual pieces are designed and handmade by Julie and other British designers. Everything is handmade in England and ethically / sustainably produced using recycled metals / materials and conflict-free gemstones.
Julie started her business from a market stall in Covent Garden, moved to Portobello Road and finally found a store workshop in Blue House Yard, Wood Green, north London. The site is run by Meanwhile Space CIC, a social enterprise which “unlocks underused space for the benefit of community cohesion, placemaking and enterprise”.
Blue House Yard is a good fit for Jules & Gems as it is close to Wood Green’s cultural quarter, home to numerous arts and creative organisations, presenting opportunities for inspiration, co creation and collaboration.
Since opening in north London in July 2019, Julie has steadily built a loyal clientele who are constantly satisfied with the bespoke pieces that she meticulously designs to their unique requests. As for so many businesses, this year has not been easy. We spoke to her in September.
“It was really hard to close during lockdown in March. Nearly all of my income comes from the shop and it disappeared overnight. Everything was going really well prior to this. I felt bereft when we all had to close. I put everything in the back of my car and took it home. I didn’t know when we would be back. It was such a hard time.
“The worries and stress were nothing like I had ever felt before. I still had bills to pay but with no income coming in. Luckily, I had support from my family. On the plus side I spent lots of time with my daughter, ran and did yoga every day and eventually started to feel creative again.
“The time gave me plenty of opportunity for reflection and inspiration. I have been working on a new limited-edition collection, all about our journeys into ourselves. If there's one thing this year has taught us, it's that we need to take care of ourselves. The collection, Your Journey Back to Self, features seven designs aimed at reminding us of our strengths and values in the face of adversity.
“Another good thing to come out of lockdown is that I realised that I need to do more to digitise my business. I love meeting and serving my customers, so I hadn’t really concentrated on pushing sales through my website. If there are future lockdowns, I need to have an alternative to the shop. Online marketing and e-commerce are not my specialities so I have joined London’s Pay It Forward scheme which is helping businesses to get back on their feet. I am hoping to raise funds to cover the costs of developing a stronger online presence.
“The units at Blue House Yard have been brilliant at supporting each other through and beyond lockdown. As the location is off the high street, we have to work hard to attract people in. We rely on ourselves to drum up trade. We use social media, mailing lists and events to bring people in.
“We’re working in such a different way now. We have all of our safety measures in place and we are all working tirelessly to build things back up. Christmas is coming and we are on shaky ground with the looming restrictions. I am hopeful that people will embrace the season and support local traders. Existing customers love the variety of units and eco-focus at Blue House Yard. Our aim is to give a great service and convince more and more people to make this one of their main shopping destinations. Hopefully this year will have been a turning point for people shopping locally.”
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