Arundel’s Rare Rabbit is a warren of wonderful pieces and family plans, as Laura Cartledge discovers.
There is no doubt being a textile designer and jewellery maker is a great combination for launching a shop boasting gifts for the home and people of all ages.
However for Clare Howieson it took two special business partners to give her the push she needed.
“I have got five-year-old twins,” she smiles. “When they went to school I thought to myself ‘gosh I have to do something’.
“But all of the design jobs would have been in London so I would have been getting the 7.30 train in the morning and the 7.30pm train back,” adds Clare. “I would never get to see my girls.”
Having always wanted to own a shop Clare began looking for premises everywhere from Eastbourne to Chichester.
“Then this one came up,” she explains. “It isn’t as big as I would like because I was thinking of having furniture and larger pieces but you have to start somewhere.
“It meant I can still design, I can still make jewellery and I can be my own boss,” says Clare. “I got the keys in the August then it took ages to get stock in.”
Making sure she offered different things from the surrounding shops in Arundel and knowing what will appeal – especially to children thanks to her own – Clare has searched far and wide for the very best.
“It is mostly about keeping your eyes open from looking online and in magazines to going to London,” she admits. “Sometimes I do take the catalogues and ask my girls ‘what do you think – this one or this one?’
“Often I am buying things because I like them. There have been times I have got things because I think they will sell well but they aren’t quite my thing and to be honest they’ve not done as well,” she adds.
“Perhaps it is because I buy into things I can sell them better. Take the muffin cups for example, I can tell people how my girls love them and they are great for ice-cream.
“I think the nice thing about this shop is that people might come in looking for one thing and find something else too,” she smiles, “If I had a pound for every time someone said ‘I am going to keep this for myself’.”
So what do Clare’s daughters think of mum having a shop?
“We live just down the road and it was so funny the other day. We were driving past when one of them said ‘I believe there is the most amazing shop around here’.
“‘They sell the most amazing things’ – so I slowed down and pointed to another shop and asked ‘what this one?’ She said ‘no, that one’ and pointed before shouting ‘it’s ours!’”
And it is. Clare is keen for the business to belong to all of them and even has plans for them to join her on the designing front.
“Both of the girls are really good at drawing and I would love to get it printed on to something,” she reveals. “The plan this year is to do more online and to start thinking more about my own stuff too.
“If I make more of my jewellery and get a range going it would be easier for me to adapt them,” she adds. “When the tea towels came in that was a big day for me.”
The tea towels in question are the first of the Rare Rabbit brand and an exciting insight to what could be to come from Clare’s creative mind.
Featuring recipes printed in bold letters on white backgrounds the yellow version – which serves up a guide to lemon drizzle – has been particularly popular.
Since opening in October 2012 it is clear Clare has hit the ground running.
“It was a bit of a fog when I first opened the shop and such a learning curve. It wasn’t until six months in I said to my mum ‘oh my god I have got a shop’,” she reveals. “But it has been really good and people have been really nice saying ‘I have a good eye’ and that it is ‘different from anywhere else’.”
Wanting to stand out from the crowd helped Clare come up with the first part of the company’s name while the second, the rabbit, came from her daughter.
“It took us ages,” she laughs. “I even downloaded a random name generator on my phone, then one of the girls just said ‘Rare.. Rabbit’.”
To find out more about Rare Rabbit, No.6 Tarrant Street, Arundel visit www.rarerabbit.co.uk