Anyone can sell sexy, but how do you sell sensible? At Utility in Brighton, Martha Tiffin and her crew have landed on a way to make shopping for traditional no-nonsense goods for the home more fun than it should be. First there’s the music - anything from a bit of C&W, to Bowie, Gerry Rafferty, Supertramp - which reflects the era of the products and Martha's own upbringing. Then there’s Colin, a straight-talking gentle rockabilly loved by customers, who has been with them from the beginning. And then there’s the product - solid, well made, inexpensive (£3 for a glass jug) - that's more traditional than retro. A shop like this could be a bit humourless, but by engaging enthusiastically with customers (who keep asking for a mixtape) and possibly by channelling a friendly Americana vibe (25% of their stock is from the USA) they have, in the past four years, grown a loyal following. (And they don't ALL come from London).
Who are you? The shop is called Utility. I'm Martha Tiffin and I run it with my other half and my brother-in-law, and with the excellent help of Colin, Lee and Jerry.
Where can we find you? In the North Laine of Brighton - 28a North Road, BN1 1YB; the website is www.utilitygreatbritain.co.uk.
Describe your store in five words: An excellent household goods store!
What makes you different? We stick to our guns.
How you decide what makes the cut? Do we like it? Do you need it?
What were you doing before you did this? Allsorts: I was a cleaner, a signpainter, I worked in floristry, horticulture, in shops, offices - just like everybody else, I guess.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? The best advice in the world is "Turn up on time, and do your best."
What are you most proud of? I was asked this once before, and no doubt the proudest moment for me was when my Dad (who was a huge influence) saw the shop for the first time, and "got it".
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I am in need of new plates so I have my beady eye on the Dudson crockery.
What's hot for 2013? When you stock really traditional things, there aren't really seasonal trends (hurrah!). But actually HOT, would be the Tennessee-made Lodge cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. It's getting to that outdoor-y time of year and they are great on a camp fire or at home. We're also very excited about our own brand enamel range.
Every Wednesday 'Indie of the week' celebrates the best independent stores around. These places sell interesting and varied collections of design-related things you don't see everywhere else. They may support young or local designers or be great at finding unique things from around the world. By thinking a little more creatively about what they stock they are fighting the bland homogenisation of so much of the high street. And since I'm down with the realities of modern life, online only stores count too, because a beautiful and easy to use website is just as delightful an encounter in cyberspace.
Do you you have a favourite store? I'd love to hear from you.