Chapel Allerton 'best place to work in country' says gift shop owner who knows customers by name
Gift shop owner Jo McBeath knows many of her customers by name.
Her Chapel Allerton business Chirpy offers design-led presents including ceramics, toiletries, homeware, cards and children's clothing, with a workshop space for events.
When the Harrogate Road shop came up for sale just a stone's throw away from Jo's home in 2016, it was "now or never" for the former operations manager.
“It was the right time, right place in my life," Jo, 48, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“The previous owner wanted the name to reflect the chirpiness of the shop.
"It has worked well as I’m a chirpy person and I now commonly get called Chirpy Jo around Chapel Allerton!"
Jo runs the business with just one member of staff and help from her 15-year-old daughter on Saturdays.
It's no easy task, but having full control over her shop allows Jo to provide a bespoke service to every customer, helping them to pick out the perfect gift - however last minute.
“People want an experience from a small independent shop, a reason to come in," Jo said.
"You have to offer something more than a product.
"I know many of the customers by name and I've seen some of the customers pregnant with their children and then watched them grow up.
"I walk down the street in the morning to get a coffee from a local bakers and I say hello to everybody on the way.
"I’m a really sociable person and that sets me up for the day, it’s really lovely.”
Jo has joined up with other Chapel Allerton shops to celebrate Fiver Fest, a national campaign running from Monday, to encourage shoppers to divert £5 of their weekly spend to local businesses.
“It’s such a good example of how the shops in Chapel Allerton work together and support each other," Jo added.
"There’s a wonderful mix of cafes, bars, shops and restaurants, all around one street. It's a lovely family area.
“It feels quite continental and I think it’s the nicest place to live and work in Leeds, or even the country."
The pandemic has been tough for independent businesses and Jo quickly had to expand Chirpy's online presence, selling her stock on social media before setting up a website.
She's noticed a shift in shopping habits since she reopened in April, with customers spending more time browsing and chatting in store.
Jo said: “It’s a slow process, but people have got in the habit of shopping local and shopping small which is amazing.
“Go and try out your local gift shop, or butcher, or fishmonger, because they’ve individually picked out everything in their shop.
"They’ve picked the things they love, that are good quality, and they’ll go the extra mile to source their products.
“I’m massively passionate about shopping local online as well.
"It’s easy when you’re busy to click on the big retailers, but I want people to think - if I was going out to the shop and going to Chirpy, can I look at Chirpy online?
"It’s been a proper rollercoaster, but without the support of Chapel Allerton customers and online customers, we wouldn’t be here.
"I can’t thank them enough.”