With its new distinctive blue exterior, Marilyn & Melrose is a well-known gift and lifestyle shop in Narrowgate that’s been welcoming its loyal customers back through its doors after reopening.
But being able to open after three months of closure isn’t the only cause for celebration: August 4 marked eight years since the store first opened, as well as its founders Karen and Paul Scrimshaw’s 30th wedding anniversary.
Named after Karen’s late mother, Marilyn, and maternal grandmother, Melrose, the shop brought something a little different to the cobbled street of Bow Alley when it opened in 2012, before relocating to Narrowgate in 2013.
"There wasn’t anything like this at the time,” explained Karen. “For example, we were the first store in the North East to stock Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and we started doing workshops.
"Our very first customer came in and said ‘this is just what Alnwick needs’, and then she asked ‘what kind of shop is it?’ Another customer, who’d lived in London, said she loved going to Liberty to wander and browse and that our shop was like a little Liberty.
"I’ve always dreamt of having a small department store, with a little bit of everything, and that’s what we have here.”
More than just a gift shop, Marilyn & Melrose sells a huge variety of products, such as jewellery, body care, fragrance, candles, crystals and more, priced from a few pounds to investment pieces costing hundreds of pounds, with its most popular products being its Wrendale homeware line.
"The shop only sells things we love, or would buy ourselves,” explained Karen.
Paul is a constant behind the counter and is the face of the business and his warmth of character has proved key to the business’s success, said Karen.
She explained: “Paul has a big load on his shoulders, but he’s really warm and friendly and genuinely loves people. I remember once, a lady came in who had anxiety and was shaking and Paul popped a crystal in her hand and said ‘that’s for you’. And that’s not a one off, he does that kind of thing all the time. It’s all about random acts of kindness, not to look good, but because we want to.”
As well as re-branding, other recent additions at the store include the opening of the second floor.
The couple weren’t sure how business at the non-essential shop would fare when they reopened as lockdown restrictions were eased, but they’ve been delighted by the response so far.
Paul said: “We opened on June 15, but ever since the holiday lets and accommodation opened on July 1, we’ve been really busy, in fact I’ve never seen the town so busy.
"A lot of people who come in have B&Bs and holiday cottages and they say they’re booked until the end of the season, so let’s hope it continues. People have said they’re really glad we’re back open, it’s a social experience as well as shopping.”
Karen added: "The shop is a massive passion of ours. It’s a tough climate at the minute, but we hope we can survive and come out the other side. We’re trying to remain positive and pivot on this situation and it will either work or it won’t.”
As well as shopping in store, you can shop online at marilynandmelrose.co.uk
It comes as the Northumberland Gazette is running its #SupportLocal campaign to encourage people to use local businesses.