Wednesday, 31 October 2012

'Works For Me' - with Cox & Baloney

'Works for Me'
A series of interviews with people who are managing to make money out of the things they love doing.

It's been months since I had the privilege of chatting with Joney Lyons, one half of the dynamic duo behind 'Cox & Baloney' - a vintage boutique, tea room and all-round genuine jewel on the Cheltenham Road in Bristol, UK.

I contacted Cox & Baloney hoping to glean a behind-the-scenes look at owning a vintage boutique and make notes as part of my research for an on-going writing project. What I ended up with was pages and pages of pure passion. Our conversation gave me so much food for thought that I've been slow to put it down in words, wanting to pick through the wisdom and distill exactly what was so enjoyable about our time together. At the risk of over-simplifying, I've whittled it down to three things:

1. Innovation

Cox & Baloney is the brain child of two best friends, Joney Lyons and Amy Cox, with a shared background in the TV and film industry. When the long, stressful days of their original careers began to lose their luster, they took the initiative channeling their creativity into the clothing venture that began as a rail in artisan markets and evolved into the treasure-trove boutique open today.

New facets of their adventure are being added all the time: from collaborations with a dressmaker, a bookshop owner and most recently, a furniture restorer, they've paired up with people whose skills complement their vintage vision, creating a space that celebrates craftsmanship across multiple platforms. The addition of a tea room, both quaint and glamorous in equal parts, has been an ace in their hands, allowing them to host popular events such as hen parties and baby showers in a haven of wonderful aesthetics. 

Nothing is accidental. Everything from the decor and visual merchandising, to the shop's contents and its capacity to stylishly cater for special occasions, is the result of meticulous and on-going planning, market research, investment and evolution.

2. Education

The most humbling and uncomfortable aspects of our discussion held a mirror up to my own behaviour and made me reconsider some of my buying expectations. 

Joney talked about the difficulty faced by retailers wanting to offer something of value to consumers who are used to clothes coming cheap. We are often unwilling to recognise that higher prices reflect the fact that garments sourced in great condition from by-gone eras are inherently worth more because of their history, their quality and their uniqueness. Similarly, she described the pricing dilemmas facing British designers and artisans looking to make a living in competition with imported mass-produced products that imitate their labour-intensive handmade techniques. 

Against this backdrop, Cox & Baloney is constantly defining its own niche: like all businesses the boutique needs to make money, but its outspoken stance in support of the wider independent fashion industry is a credit to its owners' own integrity and strength of feeling.
Perhaps better still is the way each potential customer is invited to contribute to this alternative retail scene. During my customer experiences in Cox & Baloney, I've inwardly marvelled at the freedom to browse, to engage with the stock, to be advised on how to maximise the fun and flattering nature of vintage clothes - all without any overriding pressure to make a purchase. The experience is a world away from jostling on the high street to buy the same things as every second person. It's a rewarding way to shop and I recommend the re-think.      
3. Inspiration

Although I doubt she realised it, talking with Joney was inspiring. It's not everyday you meet someone who will tell you, adamantly and repeatedly, that you must "follow your dreams". Joney seemed sincerely happy to help forward my writing pipe-dream, and sitting with her in the tea room of a beautiful boutique willed into reality by two determined friends, the productive force of sheer belief suddenly seemed as tangible as the tea cups in our hands.

See for yourself:

   Opening Hours   
Tuesday-Friday 11am-6pm
Saturdays 10am-6pm
Sundays 12pm-4pm
Contact Cox & Baloney
182-184 Cheltenham road Cotham Bristol BS6 5RB
 0117 9443100
Twitter:  @coxandbaloney

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