9 of the most beautiful gift shops in Suffolk
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Open Tuesday to Sundays 10.30am to 4pm (plus late nights on Fridays from November 19 to December 3)
This cutesy little shop on Lavenham’s much-photographed high street is filled with carefully crafted, individual gifts, largely from small independent makers – including pieces handmade by owner Lienne Birch herself.
“I opened Posy in 2016 – and that seems a lifetime ago – because I’m an artist and I wanted somewhere to sell my own work. I’ve got a studio at the back where I do things like logo commissions. Stocking the shops with other local artists seemed like the next logical step. Most things in Posy are handmade locally, and what that brings here is a uniqueness. I always get comments like ‘oh I haven’t seen that before’.
“I’m always cherry-picking artisans. The kind of people who aren’t big enough to do the trade fairs, but are in a position to wholesale. It’s an eclectic mix.”
The range includes jewellery, a children’s corner, scarves, cards, wrap, pottery and ceramics, and also includes some larger brands such as Merry Merry and Danish Maileg.
Lienne’s sourced beautiful spun cotton animals from France. Cards hand finished with embroidery. Even jewellery made in Bury St Edmunds with recycled leather scraps.
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And all that before we even mention her homemade fudge – with the vanilla variety having picked up one gold star at the most recent Great Taste Awards.
“I was so shocked,” says Lienne, “because they tend to look for weird and wonderful flavours and I’d sent vanilla! To win a star? I was overjoyed.”
Before opening Posy Lienne worked as a cook at a local farm shop and says she’s always loved baking and creating. She began making the creamy, decadent fudge as a hamper filler, but it’s become so popular, customers visit the shop just to get their latest confectionary fix. Flavours include stem ginger, and sea salted caramel. And there are seasonal additions, including strawberries and cream in summer, and this Christmas hazelnut and cranberry, and chocolate orange.
Open 10.30am to 5.30pm Tuesday to Saturday
Former creative director Amanda Leeson has an eye for beautiful things – and her shop (opened in 2011) is very much a reflection of her impeccable attention to detail.
Before opening launching Vanil (in her front room) Amanda travelled extensively in Amsterdam, Singapore and the Big Smoke – time which has naturally influenced her tastes.
“I’ve particularly always had a love of Scandinavian design,” she says. “And I love colour and textiles. That’s what I bring to Vanil. It’s very much my house. It’s in my home. And I want the customer to experience that. It’s not just ‘another shop’.”
In a climate where sustainability is key, Amanda says she’s delighted to sell an ever-changing collection of vintage furniture – particularly Danish in design. “We’re all about the unique. And I like everything we have to be functional, or to be something that makes you fall in love with it all over again whenever you walk in a room.”
One of the highlights in store at the moment for Amanda is a range of branch candles launched by a London studio during lockdown. “They were making these fabulous acorn vases, which we stock, and the branch candle is an extension of their range.
“It’s made from beeswax and inspired by the branches that were falling under trees along the designers’ walks in lockdown. They’re so beautiful and available in nine colours. The packaging alone is stunning. It's all hand block printed on paper. They’re so popular I’ve had to reorder them.”
Other highlights for Amanda include recyclable, hand washable rugs, Fairtrade Danish slippers and booties, recycled paper Christmas decorations from Swedeen, and local ceramics and stoneware.
EmZo, Finningham near Stowmarket
Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday and for late night Christmas shopping on Tuesdays until 8pm, ending on December 21
Sisters Zoe and Emma Lawes opened EmZo 15 years ago, with Zoe laughing that they’ve probably extended the gift and homeware shop three to four times in that period – they just love shopping.
And clearly so do their customers, who continued to support EmZo throughout lockdown when a click and collect service was offered.
One of the biggest changes during the last decade-and-a-half has been the addition of a café, where you can stop in for homemade cakes and scones, sandwiches, hot meals and speciality coffees every day.
The main store is “all-singing, all-dancing" in the lead up to Christmas. “We’re filled with so many decorations and gift ideas,” says Zoe. “We’ll have real Christmas trees outside, but inside there’s no end of things to buy. It really is an emporium of Christmas!”
We all know men can be notoriously difficult to buy for. For the man who has everything, Zoe says EmZo has a very extensive range of present ideas.
She also highlights the gifts for pets, unique socks, East of India products, fragrances made locally by Manor House, Bomb Cosmetics, baby gifts, and a cool range of jewellery from My Doris, made in Bury St Edmunds.
While it’s looking pretty festive, there’s so much more to this shop than the holiday season. “We started off mostly with jewellery,” explains Zoe, “and now we have loads of homeware and kitchenware, probably a bigger selection of cards than Clintons, and all the gift wrapping you need.
“This has been such a growth journey for us, from where we started to now. We’ve really learnt on the job. The customers are the best thing about this. We have lots of regulars. And then so many people who come in from ‘down the road’ who’ve never been before and are so glad to have found us.”
W & M Smith, Middlewood Green near Stowmarket
Open from 10am Monday to Saturday, closing at 7pm on Monday and Thursday, at 5pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and until 4pm Saturday
Wendy Smith started her business in 1981 – on her parents’ landing. It must have been quite tricky trying to navigate the young entrepreneur as she started to make her way in the business world.
But it was clearly worth it, because W & M Smith is still going strong today, with a huge – make that enormous – array of gifts, and craft items to make your own presents.
“A lot of people say it’s like an Aladdin’s Cave,” says Wendy. “We are filled with all the things you never knew you wanted! Every single nook and cranny is filled. We don’t like space here”
As we head into the festive season, W & M Smith’s impressive range of Christmas goods has to be seen to be believed. The Christmas room is packed to the rafters with ready-made wreaths, the wherewithal to make your own wreath, lights, artificial trees, ribbon, garlands, baubles, paper, stockings, Christmas cake decorations and boards, Christmas glass. The list goes on.
Elsewhere there are too many ‘distractions’ to mention.
“We do a lot of cake decorating supplies with a bigger section for that than we used to have,” says Wendy. “We’ve got food colourings, stands, icing, decorations, marzipan, paper frills, paper cases – the lot.
“In the rest of the shop we’ve got everything for floristry and general crafting. And we have lots of hampers which you can buy to fill with your own gifts – wicker hampers, hamper trays and boxes and all the things you need to decorate them.
“You can see from the shop I like the buying side of things. But what we really pride ourselves on is the personal service we give people. Nothing is too small for us to sort out. We do go out of our way with customers to treat them how we’d like to be treated ourselves.”
The Cactus Club, Woodbridge
Open 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday
Emily Hicks, who’s been running The Pink Cactus on Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare since December 2020, took over the former Browsers Bookshop in the town earlier this year as a pop-up venture.
And the spacious store is very pleasing to the eye indeed, bursting with gift ideas largely made locally or sourced ethically by small businesses based mostly in Suffolk or Essex.
“We’ve got so much in store, from candles and homeware, to clothing and even terrariums,” says Emily.
“Customers have loved the variety of products all under one roof. At the moment we’re loving the gorgeous-smelling candles, brightly coloured jewellery and lovely chunky jumpers and sweaters. There’s something for everyone.
“A few of our favourite brands are The Copper Cacti, who do beautiful terrariums and air plants, Smith & Co and Willow and Bay Scents candles are wonderful, and the diffusers (which make fantastic presents) come in lovely packaging.
“New Day Originals have stunning printed kimonos and dresses and they will be doing gift boxes with PJ sets and eye masks in the lead-up to Christmas too.
“I also really love the Just by Emma skincare brand, made from all-natural ingredients. They’re also doing a facial gift box full of beautiful goodies. It’s so hard to choose!”
Loft and Spires, Bury St Edmunds
Open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm Saturday, and 12noon to 4pm Sunday
This gift shop, with entry both at the front and back, is almost impossible to walk through without buying something.
In fact, one of the buyers Lizzy Hall says customers often pop in to buy a card, and end up spending £50 or more. “A lot of our customers say they could buy all their Christmas presents here, and that’s a real compliment. We do actually have something for everyone – I think.
“I’ve been here for 13 years so I’ve built relationships with our customers and I’ve got a feel for what they like. We’ve got everything from cute odd socks for children packaged up as dinosaur eggs, to the potato guns everyone had as kids, and beautiful jewellery.”
Loft and Spires has something to see in every direction, with sections dedicated to jewellery, women’s fashion, homeware, garden, men, fragrance and, of course, Christmas, with lots of decorations and cards in stock.
Talking about some of her favourite things in store at the moment Lizzy mentions Freckle Face. “Their oil burners and lovely handmade soy wax melts sell really well for us. She’s got such a good nose for fragrances and their all made with high quality ingredients. You can buy the whole kit, or just the melts for £1.
“I also love the kimono dressing gowns from 100 Stars. They’re designed with beautiful prints from Kew Gardens, and some of their own prints. They start at £45, and honestly the people that buy them are completely hooked. They always need another one.
“The Kate of Kensington pieces are great too. They’re pieces of marble with animal or woodland scenes on them. And the Scottish brand Just Slate has decorated, functional oak and slate chopping boards with prints of pheasants, deer and Highland cows. They are so popular. Fantastic for presenting your cheeseboard this Christmas!”
Maud’s Attic, The House in Town and Revival, Ipswich
Open 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday
Wendy Childs has had her shop Maud’s Attic on St Peter’s Street in the town for over 25 years, expanding with her two sons Rob and John Manning over the years to open two more stores – all different, all worth visiting.
The secret to her success?
“There’s so much to see in every corner. I like to describe it as a totally eclectic mix of jewellery, handbags, scarves, lamps and gifts. As for what’s our best seller? Everything!
“I think people like us because what we have is different. When people come in they say they just can’t find shops like ours anywhere else. And they like to come back because what we have here changes all the time. I buy a very limited amount of each item to keep the shop interesting.”
And interesting Maud’s Attic is. You could find anything from a sparkling black skull ring, to a decorative trinket box...or a fluffy gonk (a type of festive gnome) which seem to be all the rage at the moment.
Either side, at The House in Town and Revival, browse for oversized clocks, home bars, funky lighting, chests of drawers. Too much to mention. Go and take a look.
Plum Green, Hadleigh
Open 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday
The window display at this town centre shop is always a treat, changing throughout the seasons –and currently filled with festive joy.
Speaking of Christmas, head for the back of the store, up the stairs, and you’ll discover their ‘secret’ grotto. Colour themed areas dedicated to yuletide tree and home decorations and candles. Whether you like to keep it quite neutral and natural, or prefer a bit of bling, they’ll probably have what you desire.
Downstairs is an impressive section for babies and young children – especially of Jellycat toys.
This leads to anything and everything from Emma Bridgewater mince pie plates, to bath bombs, jewellery, St Eval candles, decorative water bottles, note books, scarves, gloves and so much more.
Plum Green (also having First Card Greetings on the other side of the High Street) always has a wonderful collection of unique cards and gift wrap too.
Open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and until 5pm Saturday
Cathy Frost’s business has changed quite dramatically since she opened over a decade ago. Starting out as a place to sell her handmade curtains and to support her interior design business, today Loveone has built up a loyal following for its eclectic present ideas, sourced from small independent makers...now including plants, with plans for an even bigger house plant section and plant advisor in-store next year.
Talking about ideal Christmas gifts from Loveone, Cathy can hardly choose.
“There’s so much to see here at the moment. But I really do like the Merry and Bright candles. They come as a set of three and you light one on Christmas Eve, one on Christmas Day and the other on Boxing Day which I think is such a lovely idea.
“I’ve got some chunky knits from a Danish brand, which I’m loving wearing myself at the moment. And funky, lurex socks. They always do well.”
For teenagers, Cathy says the Scottish-made keyrings are proving popular – in designs such as David Attenborough and icebergs – very on-message at the moment.
“And with our house plant section doing so well, we’ve got more garden-type gifts. There’s a lovely range from a local young woman, Talking of Plant – they are plant-inspired gifts. So tea towels, table napkins, cards and prints...we have a lot of prints to rummage through the shop. And we started to do a range of boxed seeds last year.
“I think they make fantastic presents. They’re beautifully packaged. I grew a lot of them this year, including cape gooseberries!”
One of the most unique items in store? “Well, we’ve got haggis chocolate. It doesn’t contain meat, it’s just got the haggis spicing. Other flavours are Christmas Spice and Gin and Tonic. They’re all artisanal and Fairtrade. And delicious.”