"I meet so many different people. Each day is different” - the little shop of wonders in Matlock that brings like minded people together
Ellie Langley has a little shop of wonders in Matlock. It’s called Coco Gifts, and its small front is almost a trick: a labyrinth appearing as you enter. Once an old butcher’s shop, inside you’ll find an eye-tickling passageway of quirky and hand-crafted items from tongue-in-cheek wooden signs to naughty gnomes, from kooky bird-houses to arty blown-glass feature pieces.
No doubt this shop is a reflection of the vibrant Ellie. Started post-lockdown, inspired somewhat by her previous job sourcing handmade items from Bali, we chat about her determined journey to opening her own shop.
“When I first got my keys… the first moment I was sat behind the counter, on my own, looking round and thinking ‘Okay, this is your responsibility now!’”
Ellie laughs as she tells this, the softness of her delivery hand-in-hand with a zen confidence.
“It’s a leap of faith. You’ve got to be confident enough… I think I was confident because I’ve worked with the stock, and I’ve seen it sell well. The only thing that made me worry a little bit was the state of the world. But, things seem to have got a bit more normal.”
Normal. A word that doesn’t quite fit into this shop perhaps. At Ellie’s feet lay two bull terriers snoozing. Outside the shop door sits another ‘on a disciplinary’ for chewing Ellie’s sofa up the day before.
“We always start the day with a quick walk in the park before we come into the shop. Then we set up, put all the stuff outside, which is always like a little work out in the morning… I meet so many different people. Each day is different.”
“I have people that are regulars and come in every week, and we get tourists as well. And there’s always someone who’s got a story to tell you. I love hearing people’s stories, the little things they like to tell you.”
The conversation stops as a lady approaches the counter with a handful of kooky, the dogs waking up for a fuss. When asked what brings the lady into Coco Gifts, she smiles.
“The display outside! We walked past at the weekend. Looked interesting so we thought we’d come back.”
Ellie and the lady chat for a while, the Staffies returning to their snooze. When the lady leaves, the conversation turns to how Nottingham girl Ellie sees Matlock.
“Matlock has a little town community feeling. Between the people in the shops, the locals. With me having dogs, and people see me out front with the dogs, a lot of people start a conversation with me because of the dogs. And they’re like ‘Oh, you own the shop’ and they’ll come in and have a look. And now they come past now and say ‘Hi’. I feel that people recognise me know.”
Dogs. The shop is even named after Ellie’s first dog, Coco. And she’s plotting a little cafe in the shop too: dog-friendly, obviously. The end of the Coco Gifts labyrinth an ideal seating area overlooking the river that cuts through the town.
“I would really love to be able to do that. Before even the shop was a possibility, I’d always had in my mind that I would have a little cafe gift shop. It’s the kind of place that I like to be in… that’s bringing in another little part of bringing people together, because you’re creating an environment where like-minded people come together.”
And would Ellie agree that her shop is a reflection of herself? She nods with a grin.
“Ive always been attracted to quirky kinds of things… And I’m the kind of person that’d come into a shop like this and go ‘Oh my goodness, I love it all’.”
The dogs by her feet start singing in agreement, the dog by the door joining in. Ellie leans down with a soft “Shush”. The dogs obey, after more soft encouragement.
So Ellie, what’s it like being your own boss? Ellie grins again.
“It’s nice, yeh. I’m not very strict.” She laughs, adding “I’d say I’m quite a good boss”.
Another lady comes into the shop, hugs Ellie, tells her she was on her way to the bus-stop and thought she’d just pop in and say hello. As the lady leaves, the conversation turns to the value of time.
“Time is precious… time goes too quick,” says Ellie. “The Queen’s Nose was a programme when I was a kid. So you had a 50p and you rubbed the Queen’s nose and it would freeze time. That’d be handy.”
And how does the time running her own shop feel?
“A bit surreal. It’s only just sunk in now. It took me a couple of months to get my shop sign changed. So when I was first opening up, it did feel a little like it still wasn’t mine. And now I feel like I’ve settled in. Now I’ve put my own stamp on everything, I come in now and I’m like…”
Ellie holds her hands out like she’s catching rain, smiles. And what would Ellie say to someone wanting to do what’s she’s done here?
“Just go for it. Everything’s scary and unsure until you do it. Before I had the keys it was like an idea that sounded good, but it was just an idea, a concept until you do it. It’s like the first time driving. The first time getting a train on your own in London. But once you’ve done it… you’ve done it. You have to start somewhere.”