I came to Exeter to study History & Politics at University in 1996. Exeter had a few haberdasheries but nothing that satisfied the modern crafter. My teenage years in Brighton had been spent wondering the Laines, so I was very familiar with The Brighton Bead Shop, and really thought Exeter had a gap in the market for a proper bead shop, and I’m a fanatical knitter so had to have buttons in my shop! An idea was born. I met a Sidmouthian boy just before I did my finals so was quite keen on staying in the South West. I did wander back South East for a bit, firstly to London and then worked for The Body Shop at their headquarters in Littlehampton; Anita Roddick once rang me and shouted about at me about what claims could be made about the Bananas in her shampoo, but eventually Exeter pulled us back.
Bunyip Beads & Buttons opened its door on 26th November 2002, about 11am, if I remember correctly.
Bunyip’s first home was in McCoy’s Arcade (at the time it was called the Fore Street Centre but everyone called it the arcade with McCoys in so it made sense to change the name!) McCoy’s is an iconic and wonderful vintage shop in the end of a beautiful cobbled arcade full of fellow independent shops. We had a truly happy 11 years in that shop, we got married, had 2 babies while there, made some of my best friends (and fabulous godparents to said children) and am utterly thrilled that a Book shop currently resides in that shop space = all my dreams come true!
Our big move out onto the street came about because my fabulous colleague Lily Otton finished her Fashion Marketing degree and could see the need for a modern haberdashery in the city, we got asked for haberdashery items in the arcade shop endlessly! We started looking for premises for her, and then realised that we really should be doing it together. Bunyip Beads and Buttons & Otton’s Haberdashery opened in October 2013 in a beautiful corner shop on Fore Street. It had a big table in the middle of the shop, a lovely round counter and was full of crafting goodness! We’d been lucky enough to have been left the previous tenants shop-fit, a very smart men’s clothes shop, so we had a real old haberdashery feel about it, especially with my classic haberdashery counter in the middle of the shop too. We loved that shop, and worked blooming hard!
At this time, recession was hitting and High Streets throughout the country where struggling. We just couldn’t make the maths work, and eventually I bought Lily out of Otton’s, and she came to work for me full time, and we changed the name to Bunyip Craft. It made no difference to the customer but was a big change for Lily & I. Then the business rates went up, then after our original 5 year lease was up, the rent was increased. Lily bravely went to live her London life dreams. I just couldn’t make the numbers work. I had to close the shop, and I couldn’t find the right place to move to. Bunyip Craft closed in October 2018.
All the stock was moved, in my husbands electrician van, to a space that had kindly been made available to us. It was chaos. We tried to make the website work better for us, we tried to do more fairs and workshops and anything else we could think of. I had some time off!
Then, my landlord from the arcade days got in touch. He had bought a new premises on Fore Street and wondered if I’d be interested. It’s a shop with a less than salubrious past, as I said at the time ‘it’s not private anymore!’.
We moved in, worked insanely hard to get it up to scratch, and opened in February 2019. Phew!
It’s a smaller shop, which has a lovely workshop space at the back and we managed to fit almost everything in that we stocked before, only losing the decoupage letters! Customers often tell me it has a lovely feel to it, which I take as a massive compliment. We love the wooden floor (which we sanded and varnished ourselves) and the slatted wooden walls and the traditional shop front.
We’ve been at 133 Fore Street for almost 5 years now, and it’s always a challenge making the money needed to pay the ever increasing costs, staff and stock but I still love it; 20 years on! I now work 3 days a week in another job, working with businesses to improve Exeter city centre, but the shop is open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm with the help of my lovely team. Running your own business is a rollercoaster but I do love it, Bunyip is still my joy.