Sponsored post in partnership with American Express®
As you know, I love where I live. One of the things that makes Manchester so vibrant is the small business scene that continues to grow every single day, with small shops and restaurants opening all the time.
We’re coming up to Small Business Saturday this week, a day when people across the country are encouraged to get out support their local small business. That’s why I’m working with American Express – founder and ongoing supporter of the initiative – to bring you my top picks of independent businesses in Manchester.
I visited eight of my favourite small shops and picked out what I believe are signature products from each place; the products or services which are unique to each small business that keep me going back. I hope you’ll love my finds as much as I do.
Okay- let’s go shopping!
My first stop is gift and homeware shop, Oklahoma. I’ve been coming here for years and it is the place I go to for something unique, quirky and fun. You could easily spend all day in here with its vast array of brilliant, one-of-a-kind products, but something I’ve been eyeing up for a while is this Godzilla lamp. I do love a bit of kitsch and as you probably know I love old films. For me this lamp epitomises the feel of Oklahoma, now I just need to figure out where I’ll put it.
Next up is another place that has had my custom for years, I’ve been going to Fred Aldous, an art and craft supply store, since the mid-eighties when I was about 7 or so. My Dad used to bring us into town and this mecca of art stuff was always a place we stopped at. It’s gone from strength to strength since then, and is still a family run business with the fifth generation now in control. It even has its own line of products too, including these beautiful paintbrushes. A brilliant way to start dabbling in some art.
Next door is Northern Flower, another on my list of faves, which is located on Tib Street. This place is like an urban jungle in the middle of the Northern Quarter, selling covetable cacti and bohemian house plants to please any plant lover- beginner or expert. With its super-friendly staff it’s almost impossible to walk out of here empty handed, especially as the staff can whip you up a beautiful bouquet in five minutes flat!
Now I fancy browsing some lovely homewares, let’s head over to Oldham Street and to Fig & Sparrow. This shop has a unique mix of gorgeous home accessories while also housing a coffee shop and an apartment that visitors to the city can book into. It feels very European in that way, and it really works – the smell of freshly brewed coffee whilst looking at things for the home makes for a potent combination. There’s so many unique products to choose from in here, but I have a bit of a thing for maps so I’ve selected these cushions with the Northern Quarter printed on them. The Mister and I lived in the Northern Quarter before we had kids so this cushion, which is exclusive to Fig + Sparrow, would be a lovely way of bringing a bit of our personal heritage into our home.
I’m hungry again (when am I not?) so I’m going to take you to one of my favourite pizza places- Croma. The staff are fantastic, the restaurant is multi-award winning, it’s family friendly which is very important to me and the chefs make cooking delicious pizza look so easy. Its signature dish is one that probably shouldn’t work but it so does. It’s called Marinara and it is tuna, king prawns, black olives, capers, anchovies, red onions and tomato, with zero cheese. Croma is known for its quirky pizzas but this one gets me every time, it’s just so good!
Okay so we are in Manchester, what are the chances of it raining? So let’s head over the river to Private White VC and check out its raincoats. Private White VC is, I think, one of Manchester’s best kept secrets. High quality menswear (it stocks some ladies things too) all inspired by its namesake Private Jack White who was awarded the Victoria Cross (hence the VC) for services in the First World War. Expect local fabrics of the highest quality, military inspired shapes and a general feeling of being really well-dressed when wearing one of these raincoats.
Let me take you out of the city centre now and to Chorlton, a hive of smaller businesses. We are going to visit two of my favourites.
First up is Object, a mens, ladies and home store which is run by husband and wife team Alex and Rachael Otterwell. This small shop is a haven for scandi-cool, with simple, clean design and craftsmanship of the highest quality. Everything inside has been handpicked by Alex and Rachael and they certainly have fantastic taste. The signature product here has got to be the Otterwell range of shirts which are designed by Alex and made in a factory in North Manchester. Perfect for the chap you never know what to get for Christmas.
The last stop on our shopping trip is Tea Hive in Chorlton. A place decked out with vintage furniture and a huge range of artisan loose leaf teas, as well as great coffee of course. I often come here for brunch, but what it’s really known for is its cakes. Tea Hive has a great range of different bakes and flavours on its counter every day, all freshly baked. The staff serve everything on beautiful vintage china so it’s a great spot to relax in after our shopping trip.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my favourite small shops. If this has inspired you, visit amexshopsmall.co.uk to get some further ideas for your Christmas shopping.
What’s more, if you’re an American Express Cardmember you could be rewarded for supporting your local high street. When you spend £10 or more in a single transaction with your American Express Card at a participating small business during the campaign period (3 to 18 December 2016) you will receive a £5 statement credit. There is no limit to the number of participating small businesses you can receive your £5 statement credit from, however, you can only claim this offer once at each small business, terms apply.
Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Photography by Susan Earlam and Gareth Lyons (images at Fred Aldous, Private White VC, Object and Tea Hive)