Getting to Know Michelle at Card ShackPosted on: 07 Sep 2023
Card Shack is an independent Bristol business based out of The Arcade Bristol in Broadmead - a Grade II* listed Georgian shopping arcade in the heart of Bristol. With Card Shack's five year anniversary coming up at the end of next month, we sat down with owner and founder Michelle to find out what makes Card Shack tick.
1. Thanks for meeting with us - give us an introduction to yourself and Card Shack.
I’m Michelle, the owner of Card Shack – opened in November 2018, so coming up to five years now. We sell lots of greeting cards by independent makers, and gifts; we’re trying to expand the gift range actually and trying to get more local art.
2. How did Card Shack get started?
I’ve always worked in town, since I was 16, I’ve always worked with gifts and cards – so, seasonal work. I’ve done it for about 12 years, and become really good at it. I really enjoyed the two jobs that I had in town, and the customers that were coming in were constantly asking for stuff. In my position, because I’d worked my way up to management, I was able to order it in. The sales were doing really well, I could’ve stayed there ‘til retirement – I really enjoyed my job.
But then as the years went on, things changed. Ordering got tougher, I wasn’t allowed to order as much stuff in, sales were dropping, customers were leaving empty-handed. Then, over time, ordering just got completely taken away, and then we were allocated stock. The shop was not how I wanted it, customers were leaving, I was commuting to work, walking past empty units all the time.
Then I rang my husband one day and said “Oh, I keep walking past this unit…”, so he said to send him so photos, I did and he was like “Nope! Too much work!”. Totally against it – and I said “I think I’m gonna view it!”. So I just went for it!
Then it just grew. I opened the shop with hardly any stock, then just kept listening to what people wanted – and just grew it from there.
3. What do you like about running your shop out of the Arcade?
I was a bit sceptical of going in The Arcade – I know town very well, and I know shops used to come and go in the Arcade all the time – but the more I was walking past, the more I was noticing how busy it was. The shop just really attracted me – it just felt right. A bit like viewing a house, you know? When it just feels right.
Then I came and viewed it and everyone was lovely, all the tenants were nice, asking if I needed any help. Since I’ve been here it’s been great, because Bristol Shopping Quarter and the BID (Business Improvement District) pop in, security pops in, the landlord pops in. Everyone’s really friendly and welcoming.
4. What do you think is important about independent shopping?
You’re just supporting little businesses really. So, I like the fact that my shop is all about bringing locally made stuff into the town centre – which no one else is doing – because a lot of smaller, independent makers aren’t VAT-registered, so they find it hard to get into bigger shops. I’m trying to put my money and time into those people to give them a chance.
Customers come in, and they always compliment the range, and that they don’t see it anywhere else – and they’re happy to buy it because they appreciate how much detail and hard work has gone into making it.
It’s also just interesting stock choice as well – you can get away with having so much more of a range of stuff than just the mass-produced stuff out there.
5. What’s your favourite genre of card?
Funny. Bright, colourful and funny. If it makes me laugh, I order it in. Or if you mean type of celebration – Valentine’s. Valentine’s is interesting – you get lots of good, funny ones. Also, what the customers are choosing can be quite interesting...you can have a good laugh.
6. How do you find and work with independent makers?
A lot of people either come in and chat with me, and just get chatting, or people write to me on Instagram...There are trade fairs, but I try to stay away from them, because they’re in London, and usually big corporate companies. Local markets, events, Paintworks. Or just when me and the team are out shopping and see something cool we’ll just take a picture of their details.
7. If you were Mayor of Bristol for the day, what would you do?
I would definitely make use of the space. There’s so much space outside, why not provide free – or low-cost – opportunities for independent businesses to have a stall like once a month, and have more fairs, spaces, opportunities for people to sell and just get out there. But without charging the bomb – just to give people more opportunity. And, it would give younger minds more incentive to get out there and make things, and sell it.
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Patrick is a filmmaker with so much Bristol in his blood the white blood cells are graffiti'd. Educated at the Northern Film School in Leeds, he’s returned home to be a Videographer and Reviewer for 365Bristol and BARBI. When he’s not messing about with cameras, he enjoys playing guitar, spending far too much time on tabletop RPGs, and being an awful snob about cider. Have a look at his work here, or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.