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Published on July 18th, 2013 | by Skye Pathare

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Kind Regards, The Bread and Butter Letter

A bread and butter letter is a handwritten thank you note usually expressing gratitude for G-rated overnight hospitality. It got its name from being delivered at eleven o’clock the next morning, when the ex-hosts were eating – you guessed it – bread and butter! Sarah Firmston saw the phrase in an olden day etiquette book and thought it perfectly encapsulated the vibe and ethos of the business she owns with good friend Rose Howcroft. The Bread and Butter Letter, on 225 K’Rd, is full of reasonably priced, locally designed goodies – clothing, jewellery, homewares, accessories, teas, and anything crafty or cute. I caught up with Sarah on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in her beautiful shop, where she was kind enough to answer my questions below:

How did Bread come to be?
In my old flat on New North Road in Eden Terrace, I had a whole room full of vintage clothing – I used to buy all these gems from op shops even if they didn’t suit or fit me, just because I couldn’t bear to leave them behind! So I started a little shop just below where I lived with Rose, who had always wanted to do something similar. We shut its doors in January this year and opened on K’Rd in March – it took two months to renovate and shopfit because there were leaks everywhere and the wood was rotting! The new location’s great because there’s so much more foot traffic.

How do you choose what to stock and where to source the products from?
There are two main criteria. Firstly, we only stock things that are designed or produced in New Zealand and secondly, Rose and I both have to ‘like’ it and think that there are other people out there that will like it too! We pride ourselves on selling hand-crafted items you can’t easily find somewhere else. In the beginning we scoured markets and online sites to find NZ made cool stuff, but now, thanks to word-of-mouth and a few posters around the place, lots of people approach us. If you make something you think we (or the rest of NZ) might like, we’d love to hear from you! E-mail us at store@breadandbutterletter.co.nz.

What kind of customer would you appeal to?
Any lovers of quirk, and hand-made products. We have lots of customers who buy from us to support local designers and a locally owned business.

What kind of atmosphere or culture are you trying to achieve in-store and in your organisation?
We want to be seen as welcoming, a place where you can hang out. This was a tiny bit easier in the old shop as there was more time and space for one-on-one interactions with customers. This is a much busier store, but I’m sure that after a few months we’ll develop a sort of loyal or regular clientele and I’ll be familiar with everybody. Also, we cater to every budget.

What’s your favourite item in the shop?
The crocheted or tie-dyed cushions by Chirp Boutique – such cheerful colours for winter! I also love our canvas tote bags (which say ‘Totes’…haha).

What do you want to achieve with the use of your basement space?
We have a huge ‘rustic’ room underneath the shop we’re currently doing up. We want it to be a community space, where we can get to know our customers and they can get to know each other – it’s all about creating that vibe or culture we talked about before. The first big event we’re planning down there is the Garage Sale Markets on Saturday 20th July from 10.30am. It’s just $15-$20 to rent a stall and it’s going to be amazing! Contact us via Facebook if you want to get involved. We also want to host movie nights and sewing classes; we’re aiming for an event per week.

What are some challenges you’ve faced and what do you wish you’d known beforehand?
Moving to a new location was pretty scary as we were faced with a dilemma: go big or go bust! We had to save funds for shop fitting, and obviously the rent’s a bit steeper. On the non-financial side, maintaining integrity is a tricky balancing act for us. We want to have a profitable business and pay our suppliers and designers well, but we’re not raging capitalists at all and are wary of massive mark-ups. We want to grow our business while never resorting to selling mass produced goods made overseas. Running a shop is also incredibly time-consuming, especially when we work part-time at other jobs [Sarah is an Urban Designer and Rose dedicates time to her other passion, music]. I definitely underestimated the size and scope of the commitment we’ve made. Luckily it’s a labour of love, and we enjoy it so much – so it’s tiring, but not mentally draining! Sometimes I think we should have streamlined systems and planned ahead from the start. But it’s okay – making mistakes and learning the tricks of the trade along the way is completely fine.

Where do you want to take Bread?
In the future we’d love to expand and have stores in other cities in New Zealand and maybe even internationally. Also, Rose and I design our own range of products called JAM – we make bags, jewellery, ceramics, candles, greeting cards – which comprises about 30% of total stock. Eventually, we’d like this ratio get much bigger and see it in other shops too.

Where can we keep up to date with goings-on at Bread and shop your stock?
Like us on Facebook to find out about sales and events, and check out our website to browse our range and shop online. We’re currently running a promotion called 25 days of sales which kicked off on 2nd July to celebrate getting 2500 Likes. Every day, you’ll receive a great discount on a specially selected item! Check our page every morning to find out what this is. Or, just pop into the shop and say hi – we’re open from 10:00am – 6:00pm Monday-Friday; till 5:00pm on Saturday and 4:00pm on Sundays. We also have Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Studies journalism and PR, loves to write and eat cheese.



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