“Locally Made and Fair Trade” is shopkeeper Esme Burton’s motto
Tell us about yourself
I was born and brought up in North Cornwall, around Bodmin Moor. I was always an artsy kid and followed my passion for making things by qualifying with a BTech HND at Birmingham School of Jewellery in 1991. I married a Heamoor lad, Alan Burton, and we are now the parents of two teenagers. I don’t want to live anywhere else but West Penwith. I love being a creative shopkeeper, using all my knowledge and experience working in the jewellery trade. I have also spent years as a maker at craft, design and market stalls, under the name Family Silver – I’m a member of Cornwall Crafts Association.
Where are you based, and what’s the best thing about your location?
My two-storey shop Circa 21 is in the heart of Penzance town centre. There’s an amazing array of independent shops here, and Penzance has a great buzz when the season picks up in spring. I also love the closeness to Mount’s Bay – I can see St Michael’s Mount from my top-floor workshop space!
What do you sell?
A beautiful range of gifts and homeware made by about 30 Cornish creatives, mostly women (bar two men), about half of whom have been with me since I opened Circa 21 in 2014. They include ceramicists like Jess Berriman and Natalie Bonney, homewares from Polperro-based Windswept Girlie and Humble Cottage Designs from Penryn, as well as my own silver jewellery range. We’ve introduced a Fair Trade artsy furniture range to compliment our cushions and throws – these are full of colour and individuality and add real ‘wow factor’ to the shop window.
Where do you find inspiration and new ideas?
My eyes are wide open to the big Cornish outdoors, so my instinct is to infuse my ranges with a coastal and natural element. I select beautiful and useful pieces that you won’t see everywhere. When I choose Fair Trade or locally made products, their quality and provenance, the back story and personality of the maker, are crucial.
Which pieces are popular with visitors?
Brands based in Cornwall are always loved by visitors, like St Eval Candles and Liga Home from Fowey. Liga’s Beach Clean range in particular has been flying off the shelves – it uses washed-up beach plastic to create items such as coasters.
What values are important to you when choosing what to sell or how to develop as a business?
Our emphasis is on a more sustainable way of living and making a living, so we aim to offer customers well-made and beautifully designed items, as well as gifts made from recycled cotton, glass or silver, homeware made from natural materials such as wood and seagrass. Our skincare range includes vegan and organic options too. I’m passionate about promoting “Locally Made and Fair Trade”, and customers will travel miles just to shop with us. Becoming a “destination shop’ is a dream come true.
Why is your store called Circa 21?
Simply because 21 is our street number, and Circa means about or approximately, especially when used with dates. I’m a real family history nerd and wanted to discover who lived and worked at Circa 21 in the Victorian times; in 1861, it was cordwainer (shoemaker) Charles Reynolds, aged 71. Born in Penzance, he lived and worked here with his blind wife Elizabeth Reynolds, 75, originally from St Ives, and their daughter Eliza Reynolds, who was 43.
What trends are you noticing this year?
The trend for spring this year is towards energy and escapism. A need for more colour and positivity in our lives is more important than ever, isn’t it? So go bold and colourful, floral and natural. Set your senses alive with wild gorse soap, and geranium scented candles. Shine in silver blossom earrings and feel creative with gem-coloured glass vases.
What are your favourite things to do in and around Penzance?
My husband and I love to walk the precarious cliff paths between St Loy and Penberth with a pasty from St Buryan Farm shop – especially when the daffodils or bluebells are in flower.
Circa 21, 21 Market Jew Street, Penzance TR18 2HR. Tel 07876 124449.
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