A TAUNTON gift shop has generated £157,000 for independent makers since it seized the initiative and relocated to the town's High Street from Station Road.

The Handmade Boutique made the move to the bigger premises in May 2023 after one year in business, allowing it to stock a wider range of products.

The business is owned by husband-and-wife duo Rebecca and Ben Fenner, who are supported by a team of makers who volunteer their time to help run the shop.

Its stock, which includes clothing, food and homeware products, comes from independent businesses and hobbyists based in Devon and Somerset, helping put their crafts in front of a bigger audience of potential buyers.

Between April and December 2023, the shop sold more than 22,000 products.

Customers have called it a ‘real-life Etsy’, comparing it to the e-commerce company that stocks thousands of makers online because of the wide variety of products on offer.

Somerset County Gazette: The Handmade Boutique opened on High Street in May 2023.The Handmade Boutique opened on High Street in May 2023. (Image: Newsquest)

Rebecca and Ben also help their traders secure stalls at markets, such as the Royal Living Show and at Hestercombe Gardens, and even use a fully independent payment company called PayDough.

And their passion for helping other small businesses stems from Rebecca's own experience of being turned away from markets as a creative.

“We support small independent businesses and local hobbyists to get their products out there,” said Rebecca.

“We don’t have a set style or design. I wanted to create something where everybody’s welcome.

“This whole thing with the shop started from me being refused from getting into markets when I had a small business.

“I thought, ‘this is not right. Everybody should have a chance and we should be supporting these people’. So that’s what we decided; let’s just go for it.”

The chance to move to the High Street came about when the Taunton Dragon sculpture was unveiled in February last year. 

Somerset County Gazette: Helping at the dragon's unveiling helped the business find its new premises.Helping at the dragon's unveiling helped the business find its new premises. (Image: Newsquest)

The Handmade Boutique worked with the former Somerset West and Taunton Council on an event in the (then-vacant) premises – and they liked it so much, they put forward a proposal to rent it.

Relocating put the business onto a busier thoroughfare, where it also benefits from being part of Orchard Shopping Centre.

“We moved to the High Street about eight months ago – we opened on the same weekend as the King’s Coronation,” said Rebecca.

“We’ve got over 80 small businesses in store that we support. Around Christmas, we had over 90, so it fluctuates.

“In the last seven months, we’ve generated the small businesses £157,000. That’s their money that they have generated, which is incredible.

“Without local people coming and shopping small, it would never have happened. It’s a big community thing.

“It would be nice for the general public to see what they’ve done. They’ve supported families to have a nice Christmas and to feed their kids.

“It was a big, scary jump. But it’s been lovely to see so many people and repeat customers coming back. It’s blown us away.”

Now, Rebecca and Ben have further plans to grow.

They are looking to hire two part-time workers in March and have ambitions to set up their own markets – and even open more shops.

“Our shop is big, but it’s not big enough,” said Rebecca.

“We’ve got a waiting list of people who want to get in with us, but we just don’t have the space for them.”

She added: “We’re here to stay and support as many people as we can.”

This feature forms part of our Love Shopping Local campaign. To get involved with your business, email tom.leaman@newsquest.co.uk