Glorious Sussex is rightly famed for its beautiful landscapes – rolling hills, ancient forests, sunny beaches and of course its pretty villages such as Cuckfield which are so rich in history. In many ways Cuckfield epitomises exactly what makes Sussex such an attractive place to live and raise a family.
But behind all the chocolate-box charm there is a hard working village community, as seen by the array of independent village shops selling anything from designer fashions to traditional haberdashery supplies, a trendy gastro-pub, some fabulous restaurants, including a top class hotel.
There’s great architecture too – Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian – such as the Holy Trinity Parish Church, the stunning Ockenden Manor Hotel and Mill Hall However, don’t be deceived in to thinking of Cuckfield in the past tense – the reality is so very different.
Cuckfield was once famed for its iron-working, glove-making and saddlery whereas today it is tourism, retailing and hospitality that are the backbone of the local economy.
Perhaps most remarkable is how often these and other activities are led by enterprising and hard-working young women. Take for example Rebecca Musik at Edit selling second-hand designer clothing, and Helene Morris, who owns and runs Neilson Boutique, specialising in high-end designer fashions – there’s little doubt that both Rebecca and Helene have brought added flare and style to the Cuckfield as a shopping destination.
Then in a completely different field there is Ajitha Rahim who runs the go-ahead Gallery Dental Surgery which she took over 3 years ago and has now expanded into the old Reform Church building and totally modernised the practice, as well as being one of the few NHS dentists in the area.
Also growing in prominence is Sarah Brehaut from Pepperbox selling beautiful painted French furniture. Newcomer Caroline Bailey-Hawes at Flaneur is in the final stages of completing a huge refurb of her restaurant and adjoining decorative furnishings shop – her previous experience as a buyer for the Laura Ashley Group no doubt standing her in good stead. And not forgetting the eponymous Nicky C’s ‘lifestyle’ shop focusing on soft furnishings, jewellery and cloths which is also making a mark.
These successful women have now been joined by 34 year-old Darcy Shepherd who, with roots in the village going back to her school-days, has established the Cuckfield Vintage Emporium, based at The Queen’s Hall in the High Street.
Darcy, when not running a home and family, is no stranger to the increasingly popular world of vintage and French country-style fairs; as a founding partner in Village Vintage – recently named as one of Britain’s top 3 vintage events by Homes & Antiques magazine – she has her hands firmly on the detail and organisation that lie behind any successful business.
Asked what her ambitions for Cuckfield Vintage Emporium were Darcy told us, “First, we wanted to establish a permanent and regular home for vintage and country-lifestyle shoppers and second I am aiming to bring really creative ideas, originality and value to my customers.”
Cuckfield Vintage Emporium events are held once a month at The Queen’s Hall, on Fridays between 11.00 – 16.00 and an admission fee of £1 is charged.
Darcy’s next Cuckfield Vintage Emporium (CVE) events are on 10th May, 21st June and 26th July and will again feature the ever popular ‘pop-up’ tearooms and, as previously will sponsor CHICKS, the charity that provides respite holidays for Britain’s disadvantaged children.
We asked Darcy, who is expecting her second baby in August, about the thinking behind sponsoring CHICKS, she said, “We chose CHICKS because most of us have had a childhood holiday we love to remember; but it’s not like that for all kids – some have real tragedy in their lives. So, for every £1 our visitors give to CHICKS, we will match it with a pound from Cuckfield Vintage Emporium.”
If there is a secret to the appeal of Cuckfield Vintage Emporium it lies perhaps in the genuinely eclectic mix of specialist vintage and country lifestyle traders that Darcy has been able to assemble and hold together.
The range of homeware, gardenalia, fabrics, painted vintage furniture and hand-crafted scented gifts is quite amazing considering that the CVE philosophy is about creating an intimate, open and relaxed feel and a welcoming atmosphere, which is great for both the visitors and the traders.
Is there a new spirit beating through the heart of business in Cuckfield? Maybe so, at any rate let’s applaud the refreshing attitude that Darcy and so many other women are bringing to the thriving business scene in Cuckfield…. and why not give them our support?
25th April 2013