Supporting local

The TN card is the Tunbridge Wells loyalty scheme that rewards shoppers for supporting local.  This month its founder Jess Gibson chats to Christina Gudenian, owner of Zaven’s, the small but perfectly formed coffee, flower and gift shop on Mount Ephraim about her business


Christina, eight years ago you opened your shop. Has it fulfilled your expectations?

Yes, it has far exceeded them!  When I created a flyer for Zaven’s just before launching in December 2015 I chose the slogan, “An oasis in this chaotic world.” Little did I know how spot-on it would be. With the world becoming more and more chaotic, an oasis is exactly what this shop has become. As well as this it has also become a social hub and a place to meet and make friends. You can pour out your troubles here, put the world to rights and enjoy good conversation. So many of my customers have become wonderful friends and I get to meet so many interesting people. It’s like a little community here.  I couldn’t have hoped for more.


Have you always had an artistic eye?

Thank you! I suppose I’ve always been creative, having been to art college and studied woven textiles, then I freelanced for a while. I needed to earn a living though, but through my many years of office work I just wanted to scream because of the dullness and lack of creativity. So by opening the shop it was nice to finally be able to channel it. We get some lovely feedback, most often the comments are ‘what a lovely shop’, which makes the long hours of hard work worthwhile. The fun part is sourcing and displaying the variety of items we have for sale.


You showcase a large number of talented local creatives, why did you decide to do this?

One of my main aims was to feature artists and makers from the town and Borough and to give them an outlet. Several have been with us from the start, others come and go.


Who can we find in your store?

We currently have the wonderful work of a very successful local artist, James Taylor on sale, including his limited-edition prints and stylish card holders. Joanna Harris designs her ever-popular prints of The Pantiles and Wellington Rocks, which are also available in tea towels and cards. Bobbin & Bunny produces our gorgeous baby bibs with initials – each one is unique and they make a great new baby gift. Passers-by have probably seen them in the window as we like to make words with them! Jelly Bean Candle Pot Co. have been with us from the beginning, but they are always updating their range so there’s always something new to look at and smell. Tanya at Pallavicini Galizia produces beautiful ‘luxcycled’ handbags and evening purses from vintage textiles and embellishments. Katy Donaldson’s photo-montage print of Tunbridge Wells architecture is also a winner.  We stock items from local ceramicists, authors, poets, jewellery makers, botanical artists and photographers. We also sell local honey, marmalades and jams.


Do you do the floristry you sell yourself?

Yes, I am the sole florist. We have small bouquets made up and ready to grab but we also take orders for any bouquet or arrangement and can deliver locally. My speciality though is funeral flowers. It’s a genuine pleasure to help people at this difficult time and create something special to honour their loved one.


Your café and courtyard is Tunbridge Wells’ best-kept secret! What food and drink do you serve?

During the week we have fresh homemade soup and sandwiches at lunchtime and of course coffee and cake all the time! Our coffee comes from Brighton-based Roasted and we also sell local Kent juices, Kent Crisps and Simply Ice Cream which is Kent-based and the best ice cream! We enjoy feeding our neighbouring businesses at lunchtime and supplying their teatime treats.


Mount Ephraim is often overlooked by shoppers but what else does this special area of Tunbridge Wells offer?

It’s such a lovely little space with a village atmosphere. Of course, it was one of the original villages that made up Tunbridge Wells. We are lucky to have many independent businesses as our neighbours.


Thank you for being part of the TN card. Why is it Important to support our independents?

We are a nation of shopkeepers so please try and support the small businesses who look after you so much better. Try not to shop online and pay with cash wherever you can! Our small shops are so much
more than just retail.

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