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Independent shop Celtic Crafts in Lindisfarne
By bira

On mystical Lindisfarne, Karen Mundy is passing her business over to her daughter

Since Saint Aidan founded a monastery on Lindisfarne in 635AD the tiny island just off the coast of Northumberland has acquired a mystical reputation. Annually more than 650,000 people cross the short causeway – tides permitting – to visit to The Holy Island. Welcoming them since 1980 has been Karen Mundy, who is now passing the reins of her various enterprises to her daughter, Charlotte.

How did you arrive in Lindisfarne?

Karen: In 1980 my husband Neil and I wanted to escape the London rat race. We were drawn to his native north-east and ended up buying the general store on Lindisfarne. After the first of our five children started arriving, Neil was pulled back into corporate life in Northumberland and my parents took over the shop for us as I ran our home. In 1990, by which time I had four children, I was tempted into buying a virtually derelict building that housed a basic nick-nack shop. It’s where we still are today, with our Celtic Crafts jewellery and gift shop, our Pilgrims Fudge Kitchen and Gelateria next door, and a holiday cottage above and at the back. Both shops are tiny, barely 10ft x 12 ft (3m x 3.5m) with very low ceilings and wonky walls – filled with character but not loved by joiners or shelves.

What was the initial vision for the shop?

Karen: I just wanted to sell nice things to nice people. Within a couple of years, playing on the island’s Celtic connection, I was using lots of craftspeople and artists, some local and some from Celtic areas like Shetland and Ireland. At first the building was a shop and a holiday cottage, then I made both rooms downstairs into two craft shops offering something for everyone and I converted upstairs into what we now call Sally’s Cottage.

When did Charlotte join the business?

Charlotte: I ran a restaurant in Newcastle from the age of 20 and lived abroad in Spain and Morocco before moving briefly to London to work in media sales. Around 2010 I decided I wanted to live a life which didn’t involve commuting on a train for two hours a day. I wanted to see the beach from my bedroom and go running in the hills. I began by turning one of the craft shops into what is the Fudge & Gelateria. Three years ago I became intrigued and involved in Celtic Crafts and the holiday cottage. Two years ago I began running the three businesses to allow my mother to enjoy life.

How are you changing the business?

Charlotte: I am evolving them in my own vision. In Pilgrim’s Fudge Kitchen I began by selling local ice cream but last year I sent my cousin who works with us to Italy to learn how to make gelato, which we now make on the premises along with our own fudge. We rotate about 20 flavours of gelato and about 25 types of fudge. We probably have too many! We also sell local alcohol plus vegan and gluten-free treats.
As a lover of gold and sparkly things, Celtic Crafts suits me perfectly. I am building on the reputation my mother created. With Lindisfarne having only about 120 residents, we rely on visitors and mainland locals. We sell some things that appeal to tourists, but we are not a tourist shop. We sell beautiful jewellery. Prices start from about £20 for some earrings, but we go up to £1,800 or even more for bespoke commissions, which I am increasingly pushing towards. I get just as excited as the lucky customer who commissions the pieces.
This year I have been mainly working on bespoke ranges inspired by the sea, the local landscape and Holy Island. Collaborating with local artists who work with materials like ceramics, glass, precious stones and metals has been inspiring.

How has Lindisfarne changed since 1980?

Karen: It has become even more popular and the season has become longer, stretching from February through to early December. We have different groups of customers, from holidaying families to older, quite affluent customers. We have lots of men buying for the woman in their life.

What’s the next development?

Charlotte: My winter will be filled with refurbishing the fudge & gelateria for next season. I am constantly working to improve both businesses online and bring new designs to our shelves.

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