Meet the owners
To survive on a High Street crowded by corporate giants, which can squeeze out sole traders, Indies have a real challenge. Anne Bannell – owner of city centre gift shops Jacks on Trinity and Giles & Co – had the prudence to recognise this, and has prospered thanks to continually diversifying.
Starting out selling own-design chunky knits, she opened Anne Rowena on Trinity Street in 1985. Husband Steve, a policeman, joined the team after the couple’s first child was born, and in the mid-90s they launched a range of T-shirts printed with classic Cambridge scenes. These zoomed off the shelves, and as the tourist trade picked up, while the knitting business struggled, they rebranded as Giles & Co, focusing on Cambridge apparel.
In 1997, Anne took on the lease of number 34 Trinity Street and the much-loved gift boutique Breeze was born, selling beautiful stationery, homeware and Christmas decorations. It flourished for many years, but the opening of the Grand Arcade, plus some severe winters hit trade hard. Recognising the value of Cambridge’s booming tourist trade, Anne launched Jacks on Trinity in 2013, specialising in gifts inspired by Cambridge and the ‘best of Britain’. Seven years on, Jacks continues to celebrate all things quintessentially Cambridge and proudly British. Best-sellers include the ubiquitous magnets and keyrings, Cambridge University-crested hoodies, London paraphernalia and a magical Harry Potter collection, housed in a Hogwarts-esque room. There you can lay muggle mitts on wands, scarves and wizard capes, notebooks, character clothing and figurines.
Anne and Steve’s son William has now taken over the running of Jacks and Giles & Co, at what couldn’t be a worse time for anyone in the tourist business. They are praying that international travel returns to it’s ‘before Covid’ level as soon as possible, or they may have to adapt and change once more. Like many others, they are just waiting to see with fingers firmly crossed, and hoping that the business will once again prosper for at least another 30 years.
What are you favourite things about Cambridge?
Cambridge city centre is packed with beautiful buildings as all the colleges have impressive facades, intriguing court yards and very well maintained gardens. I have to say my favourite is Kings College Chapel. It has become such an iconic building and dominates Kings Parade with its enormous stained glass window framed by tall turrets. Inside is the world’s largest fan vaulted ceiling and listening to a choral concert is quite a moving experience! It is a privilege to have two shops within a stone’s throw of this world famous building
My favourite open space is the Botanical Gardens. I don’t get the chance to go very often but when I do there’s always something new to see, lots to learn and the seasonal displays are quite beautiful
What is your favourite independent business in Cambridge (besides your own!)?
I’m a big fan of independent businesses of course and around the Trinity Street area and surrounding streets we are blessed with some of Cambridge’s best. I really enjoy visiting ‘Lilac Rose’ in Bridge Street. With an eclectic mix of clothing and gifts it’s become my go-to shop if I need a present for friends and family.
Where do you like to eat in the city?
There are plenty of fabulous restaurants in Cambridge – you can eat your way around the world. But I absolutely love Midsummer House. It can be quite expensive so visits are very few and far between, but when they do occur I can honestly say it is one of the best food experiences I’ve ever had. It’s a lovely venue and the staff get it just right too.
Describe your ideal day out in Cambridge?
An ideal day out with visiting friends would be firstly to take a punt to Grantchester. Once there enjoy a drink at one of the pubs, take a stroll around the village and lunch at The Orchard. After punting back to Cambridge (dozing on the way – someone else is doing the punting you understand!) I’d go up to the Roof Terrace at The Varsity for cocktails and the stunning views, then dinner at The Ivy, Trinity Street. Finally on to see the latest release at the Arts Picturehouse.
My personal landmark has to be No 4 Trinity Street. Back in 1985 my husband and I opened our first shop as ‘Anne Rowena’ (that’s me!) which was all about hand-knitted jumpers. Since then the shop has seen a few changes but it is still ours – now Giles & Co. Jacks on Trinity came along a lot later but No 4 holds memories of our first venture into business with all it’s highs and lows, big mistakes but wonderful successes too. As we hand over the running of the shops to our son William we know it’s in safe hands and look forward to seeing the changes that he puts in place while he makes it his own.
If you went to a desert island, what three things would you take?
A set of artist’s essentials, a piano and lip balm
What would be your superpower and why?
To see the future – I could have saved the world!
What is your favourite animal?
Cats. I still miss our ginger tom Bennie, who died a few years ago now. He was always waiting for us on the doorstep when we came home.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Go to university to do Art
Photo credit Ian Olsson for Indie Cambridge
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