“There is always something exciting happening in Camden Passage whether it's a new market, street events or live music,” says 29-year-old Jenny Hughes, founder of Home & Pantry. “It's the perfect destination for an afternoon shopping and has lots of options to grab a coffee and cake or sip a glass of wine and watch the world go by,” she continues.
When looking for a shop premise she knew it would be the ‘perfect location’: “It has that great village feel that I am used to at home [Dún Laoghaire, south Dublin] – everyone knows each other,” she explains.
Jenny, who moved to London three years ago due to the recession, wanted to start her own business from a young age. Pursuing the idea, she worked in family businesses while at school, completed a degree in commerce at University College Dublin and spent four years working in entrepreneurial roles. “I wanted to gain as much business experience as possible before opening my own store,” she says.
In December 2010, feeling ‘totally uninspired’ with her corporate job, she handed in her notice to open Home & Pantry. “Having only recently moved to London and in the midst of a global recession it was a huge risk. I had to speak to six banks before persuading one to take a chance on me,” she recalls.
After spending months searching for premises in Islington, plus painting and stocking the new store with help from friends and family, the boutique opened in April 2011. Inspired by her favourite interior retailers, Anthropologie, The White Company and Not on the High Street, the store sells rustic, French and shabby-chic homeware and gifts.
Products are sourced from France, Belgium, Morocco and India as well as the UK and Ireland, and mixed with vintage finds. “We have a lot of suppliers for such a new business but we do this in order to constantly have a great selection of bespoke products coming in,” explains Jenny.
The range includes willow baskets, antiques frames, lace scarves, wooden trestle tables and distressed mirrors. What does she look for when sourcing new pieces? “We carefully select every product for quality, style, originality and value,” she says.
In June homeandpantry.com was launched, a full e-commerce site selling 300 items, after Jenny received requests to ship products around the world. “Not having a background in e-commerce made it difficult at times to know where to start. However I was lucky to find an amazing web development agency who really understood what we wanted.”
Aware of the growth of social media channels such as Pinterest and Instagram the site also includes a 'get inspired' section to help customers with interior decisions. “In the vast ocean of the world wide web we are always conscious of the importance of trying to connect with the customer, in essence we are trying to replicate the type of service you would experience in store,” she explains.
Currently Jenny is looking for a second larger store: “Not having lived in London long makes it difficult to know where to look. We are constantly asking customers and I take days off work to visit recommended locations to get a feel for the areas,” she says.
Home & Pantry has been nominated for the 2013 Smarta 100 Awards and Great British Entrepreneur Awards
Visit: Home & Pantry, 114 Islington High Street, Camden Passage, N1 8EG,
Word by Rachel O’Brien, Photographs by Lisa Elbilia