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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Shopping Small In Durham In North East England

Sponsored post in partnership with American Express®

Growing up in a small village on the outskirts of Durham, a quiet, historical city, small businesses have always been part of my life. I well and truly live in the countryside, surrounded by green fields, wildlife and farming communities and without a doubt it is the local shops and their products and services that give the area personality and life and I know that it’s the same up and down the country. Whether it’s a family-run bakery or an upcycled furniture store, small businesses bring something unique to the community. They have signature products and services that become famous amongst the local community, bringing vibrancy, individuality and identity to the areas in which they reside and it is beyond important that we, as consumers, support these local gems by shopping small this winter.

With Christmas fast approaching, there’s no better time to start shopping small to get your hands on those personal, thoughtful gifts that won’t be found elsewhere, discovering new tastes, flavours and experiences at the cafés, restaurants and bars, all whilst supporting the local community. 

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’ve teamed up with American Express to show you all exactly why shopping small is an amazing way to pick great gifts for friends and family this Christmas and all year round. I’ve chosen seven of my favourite small businesses in the North East so I can share their signature products and services with you:

Flat White Kitchen

I’ll start with an old favourite of mine and a regular weekend haunt. To my mind, Flat White Kitchen serves some of the best breakfasts in the North East and is popular amongst students and locals alike. The decor and the inside of the café reflects the personality of Durham down to a tee, sitting in a renovated 17th century townhouse with steep, thin staircases, hanging lights, big windows and lots of green plants and the laid-back atmosphere makes it the perfect place to sit back and catch up with friends over one of the best coffees in Durham. What makes Flat White Kitchen stand out to me are the amazing pancakes it serves. With different, creative flavours on every week, there’s always something exciting for brunch, ranging from Apple and Blackberry Crumble to Strawberry Shortcake to Almond Cherry Bakewell to Lemon Curd. My tummy is rumbling just typing it!

Penny Pieces

Having just moved into my own house, finding places that sell quirky homeware pieces is something that has been high on my to-do list and it’s stores like Penny Pieces that are now my go-to. It’s a family run business (ran by the nicest and most friendly people you could imagine FYI), stocking one off furniture and home decorations, ranging from shabby chic to minimalist to the absolute best Christmas decorations you can think of (some of which I’d have in my house all year around, not gonna lie), along with a mixture of old and new furniture to match any taste. I have my eye on a silver set of drawers that would match my bedroom like a dream! What makes Penny Pieces really special though is the trademark Lucky Penny that it puts into any piece of handmade furniture. The furniture is made in its workshop with no two pieces being the same and the addition of the penny, which is attached somewhere different on each piece, adds that real thoughtful touch - you won’t find furniture like it anywhere else. Also, the owners run workshops, including things like needle-felting and furniture painting, that teach us how to get DIY’ing and they are so popular that pre-booking is essential! 

Vallum Farm

Like I’ve said above, the North East has a lot of open green spaces, and if I had to take you to one place that reflected this side of the area, it would be Vallum Farm. Sitting in the middle of the countryside, Vallum offers everything from a bakery to an ice-cream parlour to Sunday lunch to a restaurant. The farm also hosts a whole range of amazing activities throughout the year including a Barn-BBQ over the summer and its famous Christmas markets in the winter. It even holds a Santa’s Tea Party in December which sounds like the most festive thing ever. My favourite thing about Vallum though is its ice-cream parlour and in particular, its ice-cream sundaes and knickerbocker glories. Its ice-cream is made from the milk from the farm’s own cows meaning it’s the one of the tastiest ice-creams around with flavours ranging from white chocolate to pistachio to bramble. I was even lucky enough to meet Rosie, the cow that gives the milk for the ice-cream - isn’t she beautiful?!

The Mugwump

Of course, being a fashion blogger, I had to include The Mugwump. It’s a vintage clothing shop in the city centre that prides itself on bringing retro style Durham. The store has a boutique feel to it with several floors of vintage clothes, shabby chic homeware, unique pieces of art, handmade cards bags and much more. It’s one of those places where you can never predict what may be hanging on the rails, with fine jewellery and trinkets, patterned scarves and vintage inspired coats and prom dresses. What keeps me coming back to The Mugwump is its collection of vintage inspired coats. It stocks faux furs wraps, biker jackets and traditional trenches and on my last visit I very nearly bought this pink beauty. It’s right up my street with the stitching details and the 80s feel, and you all know just how much I love coats! 

Dainty Supplies

If you are into crafts, have a creative mind or want to get artsy, Dainty Supplies is the place to go. In the run up to Christmas, it’s time to think about gifts and cards and everyone knows that there is little more thoughtful than something handmade. Dainty Supplies is dedicated to haberdashery, crafts, embroidery and at this time of year, it’s simply a Christmas delight with decorations, festive crafts and even a little Christmas den in store full of lights and wonders that you could spend hours looking at. Not only that, the owners and staff run regular workshops to help you get your creative head on, whether it’s for Christmas decorations, cards, gifts or just for a day out with the family. It has a stand full of all the things the staff have previously created and just look at how cute the little decorations are! 

Jam Jar

Jam Jar is a bar/restaurant hybrid, not only serving some of the best American style food in Jesmond but also creating some of the best cocktails too. Think juicy burgers, creamy mac ‘n’ cheese, thick milkshakes and even a brunch menu. The food is dreamy and in such a relaxed setting, there’s not many better places to spend an afternoon. It also has a great Christmas menu that offers a break from the traditional festive roast, with fish, turkey burgers and sticky toffee pudding.  Yum! The cocktails are absolutely delicious and of course, the signature of the bar is that they’re all served in….you guessed it, Jam Jars! 

The Perfect Blend

Last but not least, we have The Perfect Blend. Anyone who knows anything about me will know how much I love cups of tea. Anything to do with tea has me drawn in straight away, especially when it involves afternoon tea, scones and mini sandwiches and this is why I love The Perfect Blend so much. A simple, welcoming tea room in Crawcrook, The Perfect Blend lives up to its name, serving loose leaf tea with homemade cakes (I’d recommend the strawberry shortcake, it is beautiful). What I love about the tea room at The Perfect Blend is that it’s simple, welcoming and has a real community feel to it. However, it’s the afternoon tea that really gets people excited, in particular its oh-so northern Northumbrian afternoon tea with quiches, homemade cakes, scones and clotted cream and its own blend of tea. Yup, I officially love the place!

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 will be rewarded for supporting your local high street. When you spend £10 or more in a single transaction 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 times you can receive your £5 statement credit – however, you can only claim it 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.

Amy x

Add your comment

  1. This is such a cute post! It's so important to support local businesses in little cities and towns like this, I love how your post encourages it and all these places look amazing x

    |Georgia Megan|

  2. This post makes me so happy and cozy. Durham is where I'll probably end up going to university, so it's so nice to look at some pictures of it.
    That tea room looks great and I truly need some of that food right now :(

    Amazing post and pictures, have a wonderful day!
    Agnese's Coiffeuse

  3. Looks like such a pretty place, I loved this post so much!



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