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Meet the team on St Michael’s Mount
Find out more about our Retail Manager, Shirley, and all things shop on St Michael’s Mount - from book keeping on the mainland to bringing one of Cornwall’s biggest clothing brands to the island!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to work on the island?
I was really fortunate to hear of a temporary vacancy for reception cover with some basic book keeping at Manor Office, which was the previous estate office in Marazion. After a few months I moved into the accounts team and learnt the basics – back in the 80’s this was pre-computer! We had a small stock room and supported the Island Shop with organising deliveries over to the Mount. After a while, there was an opportunity to work in the shop at the weekends and although it was very different then it fascinated me.
As the accounts role grew so did retail and it was time to make a choice between which part of my job to concentrate on. No contest! I love working in retail and knew the Mount would be the most amazing place to work. Every day is different, there’s always something new to learn and great people to meet.
What is your role on the island?
As the retail manager I’m responsible for the smooth running of the shops, making sure that we have fantastic people to staff them (which we certainly do!) and that we have an interesting array of products on offer. I’m part of a management team and we are always looking at ways to develop and so that our customers have a great day out.
What kind of gifts can visitors expect to find in the shops on St Michael’s Mount?
Everything from clothing, leather handbags, artwork, local gins, Cornish crafts and jewellery to toys, gifts and books. And lots more besides!
What inspires you when you are buying products to be stocked on the island?
I follow lifestyle, fashion and contemporary shop blogs. There are so many inspirational people out there coming up with new ideas. It’s so important in retail to see up and coming trends and to also understand what our customer wants. Anyone who knows me also knows that shopping is a pleasure rather than a chore, so there is nothing I like better than to spend a day browsing around a town or a few days in a city seeing what other people are doing.
Cornwall is a beautiful county filled with the most amazing artists, makers and designers and working with some of these people is an inspiration in itself.
What are the bespoke ranges that you have in the shop and how did these come about?
We have several ranges and one of the most popular is the St Michael’s Mount Collection. This started with a beautiful line drawing by a very talented local artist. From this we developed a whole range that changes over the seasons, using different palettes and focussing on sections of the design which is then applied to a whole range of products.
Another really interesting range is the 1793 collection which all started with a mug that James St Levan bought at auction in 2013. It’s a beautiful blue and white design on a china tankard and is a very early souvenir that was produced in Wales using our very own Cornish china clay.
The Island Shop has recently been refurbished, can you tell us a little bit more about this?
The Courtyard shop has beautiful local crafts and the Island Shop has become more fashion based over the last few years. It became obvious that there was much more we could offer and the opportunity to expand by converting the storeroom at the back of the shop was too good an opportunity to miss. The result has been really positive and that’s thanks to the creativity of the designer, Peter Cooper and the hard work of Cornish Heritage Builders. It’s surprising how the whole look and light in the building has changed.
You recently started stocking a well-known Cornish clothing brand, how did this come about?
I have known several of the Seasalt team since they started in Penzance and one of my friends worked there, so even then I was a regular customer! They were really passionate about the product and it’s been great to watch it develop over the years. Noticing more and more of our customers buy into the Seasalt Clothing brand made it an obvious range to sell ourselves. As a company they are inspirational and I think their values and ethos match very well with our own.
What are you planning next?
We are currently working with Falmouth University and Cornwall College on a brief whereby the students will produce artwork relating to St Michael’s Mount. This is a really exciting project and we have been so impressed with the ideas and initial artwork/designs that the students have already come forward with.
Supporting local artists and designer/makers is something I feel strongly about and it is an absolute pleasure to work with these people.
Where is your favourite place on the island?
This is really tricky as I love watching the bees in the terraced gardens, the fact that old cannons were used as moorings in the harbour and of course the shops! The causeway just as the tide has gone out and the sun is glinting on the water is such a beautiful and tranquil way to start the day.
Choosing isn’t easy!
I suppose I’d really have to say my favourite place is the Chevy Chase. The panes of stained glass are especially interesting and I love the way the light catches the colours and just like everywhere else on the island there are stories and history to be learnt.
Describe working on St Michael’s Mount in 3 words
My Happy Place!