Meet the owners
Podarok is a proudly independent, award-winning gift boutique based in Cambridge’s Art’s Quarter. They are filled to brim with beautiful gifts for your loved ones, or a treat for yourself. Especially known in Cambridge for their quirky handbags, along with some unique homewares and beautiful jewellery. From pocket money pieces to some more extravagant one off’s, their fabulous team will be sure to help you out in store and online to find the perfect gift (even if it is for you!) https://podarok.co.uk
What was the inspiration behind setting up Podarok?
Having lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and raising our family here we had been looking for some time for a retail business. I got a phone call from Jeremy one day to say that ‘really funky indie’ that we love is up for sale. For us it was fate (after a lot of number crunching) we purchased the business in May 2019. We were also in the really fortunate position that our fantastic Manager Carrie was already in place and we were able to maintain our amazing staff which was the most important thing to us. Retail works for both of our skill sets, I am meticulously organised and come from a financial background whereas Jeremy has an eye for something cool because of his background in design.
What does being an independent business mean to you?
The most important thing is a link with your community and wanting to provide them with something that only we can source and stock. We have such amazing customers both in Cambridge and further afield and not a day goes by when people don’t comment on how fantastic Podarok is and how everything is so ‘different’ from what you can buy elsewhere. We have several customers who come in for every new handbag in a particular range (shhh, we won’t tell). Coupled with that being a small company we employ THE BEST staff (I know, we are a bit biased) and to back us up we have won a number of customer service awards.
Carrie and Cait are fabulous artists and our window displays take a lot of work but are critical to our little shop to attract people in. Last year we won the Cambridge BID Indie window competition which we are really proud of, doubling our winning donation for a fantastic local cancer charity Something to Look Forward To (somethingtolookforwardto.org.uk)
What is your favourite independent business in Cambridge (that isn’t your own!)?
We are really fortunate to have a fantastic community which has only become closer since Covid struck – we all work together and support each other during some really challenging times. Jeremy is somewhat addicted to the fabulous Steak and Philly Cheese Sub from Bread and Meat, right across the road from Podarok.
What’s your favourite thing about the city of Cambridge?
Cambridge is such a stunning City, during lockdown we were able to walk and cycle around the City and re-engage with how beautiful it really is. I have taken a photo of something everyday that grabs me – even something small – there’s a lot to be grateful for.
What COVID pre-cautions have you put in place as a business?
Being a very small shop we set to work very early in moving the entire shop around including our counter so customer flow was easier. It was a lot of hard work but we needed to make sure we had really good precautions for our staff and customers. We had an extra thin perspex screen made so payment can be taken by card through the screen making this even safer and which our customers love. We also put in hand sanitiser stations on entering the shop and at the counter and our cleaning regime has been increased.
Why is it important for people to support independent business now more than ever?
Goodness, where to start with that. We all know the climate is incredibly difficult for all businesses but now is even more important to use it or lose it. Particularly in Cambridge where our footfall is so much lower now than previously as we don’t have tourists visiting. And remember, every time you purchase from an independent someone does a little dance. And what you get at Podarok is everything beautifully wrapped – you might even get a packet of sweets when you open your bag at home.
What is your favourite animal?
We should really say our gorgeous Podarok Bear which is on all of our branding and on our shop sign hanging outside, but we do all love dogs, our Collie Oscar is our particular favourite and we are always delighted when people pop into Podarok with a dog in tow (in fact they often make appearances on our social media).
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be afraid to take chances – you never know where it might get you. And be kind – always.
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