I spent many years living in the suburbs of San Antonio, Texas. Thousands of cookie cutter houses around hundreds of cul-de-sacs. Each with a two car garage and an 8 foot privacy fence. When it was time to shop, I'd hop in the car and head to the local mega store for everything from groceries to toothpaste to throw pillows. I purchased clothing in chain stores with barely a word to the person across the counter from me.
But, there was one year when I moved away from all of that. I was visiting a small town in the Texas Hill Country one day and saw a Apartment For Rent sign outside of an old converted hotel. It was right in the heart of a charming little German/Texas town called New Braunfels. I moved in less than a week later.
A coffee shop with big cushy couches was next door. Downstairs was a cheese shop that I frequented so much that the owners became friends. On the weekends I would stroll down the main street stopping in little specialty shops. I'd stop here for my favorite candle or there for a new outfit.
I got to know the owners and staff at the local wine bar just up the street (shocker). I met up with girlfriends for craft night at the ceramics studio up the street. Groceries were purchased at the local farmers market.
It was one of the best years. There is just something special about living in a small community and building relationships with the local business owners. The smile you get when you walk in is a smile of friendship and you can't put a price on that.
That is exactly what I found in Frome. Matt and I were trying to figure how we could be a part of it. We dream of owning a business someday, we just haven't quite figured it out yet. We could easily picture owning a shop on Catherine Hill in Frome and living right above it with our two dogs (still working on that). Someday, maybe.
We were lucky to meet a few of the business owners in Frome who had made that dream come true through hard work and dedication. Here are some of the places that we visited.
The Owl Gallery is an Art & Craft Gallery on Catherine Hill run by six local artists where you will find ceramics, prints, paintings, wire sculptures, glass work and the most amazing felt masks. Those felt masks are just amazing.
Just across the cobbles of Catherine Hill you will find Annette Gabbedey's showroom. Annette designs and creates beautiful jewelry working with precious and semi-precious stones. She specializes in Australian opals and began her career in London. She greeted us at the door and talked to us about the passion behind her elegant creations.
Mary Kilvert also started in London. One day she was exploring the artisan quarter of Frome, spotted a For Sale sign and fell in love. She soon after opened her first shop on Catherine Hill and now lives and works upstairs. Her shop is full of charming fairytale illustrations and signature dry-felted sheep clad in hand knitted sweaters. Little Baatholomew can be found on cards, mugs, linens and more. We were welcomed into the bright store by Mary, her husband and her cute little spaniel.
So, remember that drop dead sexy little red number that Nigella wore that caused such a stir? Guess where she got it. In Frome at Deadly is the Female. I wanted to grab a handful of clothes and run to the dressing room and come out draped in Hollywood glamour. The owner of this fabulous shop is Claudia Kapp, who welcomed us (along with the store's mascot). She went to fashion school and worked in London. One day while strolling through Frome she spotted a For Sale sign... well you know the rest of this familiar story.
At the Black Swan Arts Centre (another must see in Frome) you will find Seed, a design emporium established by Sinead Foley. A chance visit led her to Frome and well, you know. Here you will find unique designs and products from British designers and artists. She offers an eclectic range of products that you may not find anywhere else.
Frome is also home to Silk Mill Studios, a multi-purpose venue that was recently shortlisted in 'The Best Rescue of a Historic Industrial Building or Site' category in the English Heritage Angel 2013 awards. Along with exhibitions, concerts, and workshops, the preserved former textile mill houses studios for local artists and craftspeople.
We were able to snoop around one of the studios used by Raggedy. The first thing I saw was a sign saying "Dress like nobody's judging." How fabulous is that? Hayley Trezise works her magic in this studio turning old and vintage fabrics into "quirky couture" which she makes available online or in selected boutiques.
And don't worry, it's not only art, jewelry, clothes and housewares that are created in Frome. Here's something for the guys. Just go to the local pub and order a pint of "Beer". Or maybe your prefer "The Usual." Because as they say at Milk Street Brewery... "It's all about the beer."
If I've convinced you to visit Frome, you might find these two apps helpful: Frome App or Shop in Frome App. Be sure to check opening hours also. Many of the shops are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Frome is just a hub of creation and entrepreneur spirit. As you can see, it sucks people in. But, it's not just about the new 'Froomies'. It's the people who were born and raised in Frome that have created this wonderful atmosphere that attracts and nurtures that spirit. More about Frome... Super Market and where to eat & stay.
What about you? Do you dream of opening up your own shop someday?