Iconic Chewton Glen (Part 2)

Finding a gift shop in a 5 star hotel that has something different, local – well British at least – and perhaps if you are lucky enough, sustainable, is pretty rare I have found. More often than not you find expensive, generic brands that leave you with a sense of blandness and lack of creativity!

Keely van Dam, has brought something special to Chewton Glen’s gift shop. Shaped somewhat out of our experiences during the COVID pandemic, where small local independents came into their own as we took those early steps back into shared spaces, she delivers a totally different experience for guests and visitors….

Listen to my Audio Introduction

The stories behind some of her local independent stores artisanal products – not just the products but people themselves – sparked in Keely innovative ideas that she took to Chewton Glen’s gift shop, The Boutique. Given a free rein, she chose to deliver something that speaks of who we are. British brands, fair-trade, fair on the environment – ethical local businesses and artisans.

We talked about that fast, unnecessary purchasing that seemingly has lost its appeal, particularly following the pandemic. Many of us re-evaluated what was REALLY important in our lives. That sentiment has stayed and we are looking for something with purpose, longevity and a story behind it. It’s refreshing to walk into The Boutique and see so many local, individual and different products.

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Finding the Shorebirds Design Lady!

Keely has some funny stories to tell of the early days, when she had to hunt down the makers herself. There’s a local lady, Gemma, the creator behind Shorebirds, that produces Lino prints – and she couldn’t find her anywhere! Highcliffe held a local food festival on the football field and she saw this lady’s name listed, visited, and went running across the field shouting ‘I’ve found you’! After months of searching, she was one of the first people on board.

What’s in The Boutique?

From Parterre fragrances – a disused pick your own farm, that David and Julia Bridger transformed, growing botanicals from seed to bottle – to a new Chewton Glen linen tote bag by Helen Round, a sustainable and eco linen homeware designer. Cornwall based – much better than buying in from China it being shipped around the world.

The shop of course has evolved since its beginnings two years ago and what impressed me was the wide variety of gifts, from wooden pens to the locally produced jams and jellies by the lady that forages on the estate to beautiful candles, perfumes, pottery and bags – something for every pocket.

Its such a pleasure to introduce people to different brands and makers – I take great pride in standing in front of the products, knowing the stories behind them because all of these artisans are fantastic people who put so much thought into producing their products differently, passionately.

Keely van Dam

The process of choosing and finding these local and often sustainable products is intuitive for Keely but still she feels Chewton Glen is a small part of their journey, but a part none-the-less. She has great respect for and a passionate belief in these people that she has hand-picked.

The Bee Man

If you read my earlier blog ‘It’s All About the Bees’ you will know they have 70 beehives on the estate and produce their own delicious honey. Rob from Beeline aka the ‘Bee Man’, has been with Chewton Glen for as long as everyone can remember! It’s such a good tasting honey, and you really can’t get more local. Keely remembers him coming into the shop recently, in his white ‘bee’ regalia and asking him about whether the bees produced honeycombe – there are different ways to set the hive’s up for honey or honeycombe – and they now stock this, though its seasonal, so August/September timeframe.

Sadly, they also had to have the conversation about how the weather hasn’t been good to the bees this year, cold and wet. The flowers were up to a month too late for the bees, which has meant some of the colonies haven’t survived and there’s been a low production of queen bees. Climate changes we know, can be devastating to our bees.

Bee’s will feature on that new Tote bag and other linens from Cornwall and she is working with Chococo from Swanage for Chewton Glen chocolates – bees and hopefully a honeycombe chocolate will be included!

There is such pleasure for me uncovering these hidden gems of places and people. I really love the story behind Chewton Glen’s gift shop and what Keely is trying to achieve with it. By amplifying these somewhat hidden treasures I hope it inspires others to do the same.

If you are visiting Chewton Glen, this very pretty hotel a stones throw from the sea on the south coast of England, then don’t miss the small but captivating gift shop just off reception.