Christmas Shopping in Exeter’s independents
This week I had the pleasure of going on a shopping spree in Exeter’s independents using an In Exeter Gift Card with my friend Lene. Given that Christmas is just around the corner, we thought we’d take the opportunity to pick up some presents from our lovely local makers and independent shops.
The City of independents gift card is an initiative by In Exeter (Exeter Business Improvement District) to celebrate the amazing abundance of independent businesses we have in the city and encourage people to support them by shopping with them. If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know that at EE we are massive advocates of shopping local – so it felt like the perfect fit for us. I asked our most recent team member Lene who has just embarked on a new photography/video business herself (moments to media) to join me and create a video and stills of the experience – all the pics are hers.
We were given a card loaded with £150
On the website, there is a map guide of businesses to visit (I’ve embedded it further down for you to have a nose at). Over 50 businesses are involved and these are a real mixture of foodie havens, coffee shops, makers and independent shops selling everything from clothes to surfboards – I knew there were a lot of independents in the city but I wasn’t quite aware of the scope.
Question: If you live in Exeter, where do you think about when you think about independent businesses? Do Fore Street and Gandy Street immediately spring to mind? They do for me too, but we discovered that there are many more brilliant indies dotted around the city – what lucky folk we are!
We tried to visit as many on the list as possible in a day.
Watch our video and then read all about it!
Here’s where we went…
Queen Street and around
Queen Street is well known for its restaurant quarter, here you’ll find a smattering of big brand restaurants; the likes of PHO, Comptoir Libanais and Gourmet Burger. But on the other side of Queen Street, amid the big brands, there are some small boutique businesses that are definitely worth your attention.
We began our day in The Devon Coffee Company, where we were treated ourselves to a latte while we planned our route.
The DCC is a weeny shop with around 25-30 seats inside, it’s very cosy and (IMHO) very quintessentially Exeter, with day workers and students enjoying the casual friendly atmosphere. The staff are sweet and welcoming, and you can get coffee to go if you’re in a hurry – the coffee is very tasty!
From coffee to cosmetics, as we popped into Aromatika. Aromatika create and sell cosmetics that are handmade in Devon, are organic, natural, and not tested on animals. Upstairs they have four treatment rooms, offering a wide range of aromatherapy based beauty treatments. As much as I would have liked to pop upstairs for an hour, we had a lot to cram in so I picked up a gift for my Mum and we headed on to the next shop.
I think that Roly’s Fudge Pantry is a Devonshire treasure. You must have peered through the window dribbling while watching the fudge being rolled and shaped… no? – Just me then!
Roly’s is a Devon stalwart originating here over 30 years ago. The fudge is delicious, they always have free samples and you get to see it being made – both Lene and I picked some up for our in-laws (it never hurts to sweeten them up) 😉
From Rolys we headed to the Shop at RAMM where they have some lovely museum inspired collections, gifts for children and adults alike. I particularly like their range of Exeter inspired household goods and they also have some great treats for stocking fillers. One of the big selling points for me, is that when you buy and gift from the Shop at RAMM all the profits go back into the museum.
Over the road from RAMM are two of my Exeter favs, the glorious shop of treats that is Hyde and Seek, where you can buy anything from locally made gift cards to unicorn poo bath bombs (I picked some up for my niece). Hyde and Seek are purveyors of all things lovely and sparkly, it’s a great shop for gifts, Lene picked up some books for the kids while we were there and I made a mental note to pop back when we have more time. I’m a little bit in love with their colourful prints of Exeter Cathedral.
If you pop into Hyde and Seek you have to visit Toot Garook next door. It’s as quirky as it sounds, an Alladin’s cave of gorgeous gifts, scarves, jewellery, cushions & throws, rugs & baskets, clocks and fairy lights (because one can never have enough fairy lights). I was especially enamoured by the animal egg cups and vases, see them in my insta story here.
Gandy Street is well known for its independents, it’s probably key to mention that not all of them are included on the gift card, so do check the list before you shop. We popped into a few that are included; Moko, Mantis and the wonder that is Red Panda.
I’m a big Moko fan, I can often be found perusing the shelves, and its rare that I can actually leave the shop without buying something. This time it was a furry vegan leopard print scarf that I am mildly obsessed by.
Mantis has a gorgeous array of silver jewellery, some handmade, gemstones, handmade soaps and more. I saw the perfect necklace for my mother-in-law and I’ll be heading back to get it before Christmas. They also have a stall at the Christmas market this year, so if you’re heading there for a spot of shopping check them out.
At Red Panda, we had a chat with lovely James, the owner, who is SO passionate about his business it’s contagious. Red Panda offers Vietnamese street food, the offering is simple, healthy and bloody delicious! Lene and I had lunch there a few weeks ago and were saving ourselves for The Old Firehouse but James did try and feed us for free anyway – we love James. Red Panda is highly recommended!
If you are Gandy Street way and you have a gift card, you can also see a show, catch a movie or have a boogie at Exeter Phoenix. I love that you can use the card to do everything! (Can’t help thinking that a loaded card is a perfect gift from discerning parents for their offspring at Exeter Uni, I think I would have killed for one as a student).
The In Exeter gift card is such a great idea to help promote the independent businesses in Exeter. It encourages people to find out about the many different independents to explore which is so much fun. We are so lucky in Exeter to have such a wide range of artists, chefs, makers and creatives who bring us such beautiful products and delicious food and drink. It’s the perfect gift for those who love to shop, and for foodies – Lene Langley
Sidwell street and around
Over on the other side of town, in Sidwell Street and it’s surrounding roads there are more places to use the card. It was raining cats and dogs, and hunger was kicking in so we headed down New North Road to The Old Firehouse. I hadn’t been before, with the combo of the food and drink offering, plus the eclectic evening entertainment, may well make it my new favourite pub). We were all geared up to eat BUT it was SO popular, we would never have been fed on time, so we headed over the road to the (equally brilliant but slightly more expensive) Oddfellows. Nb; I popped back with hubby to eat in The Old Firehouse, they have a brilliant veggie/vegan range of winter warming, filling loveliness and it has a really lovely vibe – I’m glad we did!
The Oddfellows have a fixed priced lunch menu, the veggie/vegan selection isn’t quite as epic as The Firehouse but the choices (celeriac and apple soup followed by a spiced sweet potato burger) were delicious. We also tucked into a mulled wine and cheeky G&T (had to do something to warm the cockles after the freezing cold rain!).
From there we hit Paris Street. It feels like this road, in particular, is often overlooked but it houses some real independent gems including; BAKE, Hutch and Kapbula.
You might have seen me proudly showing off the not-so-perfect birthday cake that I made for my daughter’s birthday over on Instagram? Well, this week my Mum and I are trying our hand at creating a football cake for my son and BAKE. is the perfect find for me. The shop is owned by Natalie and specialises in – you guessed it – all things baking! I ordered a football-shaped cake tin to hire (can’t see that I’ll be making another any time soon). Mum and I are popping back in tomorrow
Next door to BAKE. is houseplant lover’s heaven, Hutch. Hutch is a small family business specialising in houseplants and terrariums, it is a GORGEOUS shop with some of the most beautiful green things I’ve ever seen. There are plants and there is also coffee – there’s a winning combination right there! You will definitely find a unique gift here. Lene went onto Kapbula, a shop for all things babies and small children selling organic and ethical clothing and toys.
When I think of independents – Exeter’s indie haven – Fore Street always comes straight to mind. With shop after shop of unique and interesting businesses, it’s got it all. We had just one hour left before the school pick up and in that hour we crammed in visits to; Willow Hilson, Sancho’s, The Glorious Art house, Peachy Tipi, Rivka Jacobs and Salt City Surf Shop – there are many more to enjoy though.
First stop is Salt City Surf Shop, where I finally got to meet owner Richard Monk. Salt City popped up on my radar months ago when Rich put a shout out about the business not doing so well and having to sell his van. The Exeter community got wind of it via social media and rallied around to help in save it. He says; “it was amazing, within days someone had built me a website, someone else had set up a crowdfunder and all of a sudden I was back in business”. Rich has been there since 1990 his shop sells all things surfing.
If vintage clothing is your thing you’ll love Frocks in Swingtime (near the top of Fore Street) and Willow Hilson Vintage (further down on the left). Frock in Swingtime have some lovely replica dresses – I’ve bought a few myself. Willow Hilson has the real deal. Willow has a small selection of stock in the shop, it is beautifully presented and the dresses and accessories are all the real McCoy from the 1920s to the 1970s. Willow’s is worth a visit for a quick tour of fashion over the years, she really has some unique pieces in there.
Further up Fore Street is Sancho’s, they have both a men’s shop and a ladies shop and they specialise in ethical, organic clothing that supports local and international charities – they have a great ethos. You can read more about them in Shelley’s blog here. I’m after one of their ‘I am the lion‘ necklaces – it’s on the Christmas list!
From vintage clothes to vintage gifts, opposite Sancho’s is a real treat of a shop, where the goodies inside are as unique as the name. Peachy Tipi is Faye’s shop and its full to the brim with vintage gifts from retro badges to cassettes. From toys you’ll remember from your childhood to quirky keepsakes, it’s a real treasure trove of memories and memorabilia and definitely one to visit if you haven’t already.
Do you know that Exeter has a milliner? Towards the bottom of Fore Street is Rivka Jacobs teeny shop and workshop, exploding with designs and a fine array of headwear Rivka works away in the back of her shop, mostly on bespoke projects so if you’re after a hat for a wedding you know where to go!
We couldn’t go to Fore Street and bypass The Glorious Art house, Lene grabbed us a takeaway coffee while I made sure we didn’t get a parking ticket! I would have liked to have got to The Flat for pizza too, but alas, the kids were calling!
So that was our day shopping in Exeter’s independents, you can see more of our day on our Instagram story highlights here.
A great idea!
We think that the In Exeter Gift Card is the perfect present for friends, family and colleagues. Like a credit card, you don’t have to use the balance in one go and you can use it in a broad variety of businesses from hairdressers, to gift shops, from clothing boutiques to cafes and restaurants
AND it helps to promote Exeter’s amazing independents.
I would love one for my birthday (any takers?)
For more information on the Gift Card including where to spend it, the full list is here (also see map below).
To buy a card follow this link.
*Disclaimer: We received a gift card in exchange for coverage, all opinions are my own. I was very pleased to write about something I’m passionate about; supporting Exeter’s indies.Tags: Aromatika, bake, Devon, Devon Coffee, Exeter, Exeter Phoenix, hutch, Hyde and Seek, in exeter, in exeter gift card, kapbula, Mantis, Moko, Peachy Tipi, Red Panda, Rivka Jacobs, Roly's fudge, salt city surf shop, sanchos, shop at RAMM, shop in exeter, shopping in exeter, The Glorious Art house, the oddfellows, the old firehouse, Toot Garook, Willow Hilson