Taking Tea with Alice in Wonderland
Four prints depicting the tale of Alice in Wonderland which used to hang on the wall of her childhood home were the inspiration for new business - Curiouser & Curiouser of Totnes, opened by Kate Andrews and her partner, Miles Landesman, last August.
Tucked snugly amongst the row of many independent retailers which make up the pretty Totnes High Street, this is a wonderfully bijou and welcoming gift shop and tea room.
Small it may be, but just like Lewis Carroll's famous children's story, the place is absolutely full of charm and character.
A new life in the country
Alice themed decorations and gifts are displayed next to the four pictures from Kate's childhood, which now hand upon the wall as the perfect finishing touch. Speciality cakes and fine teas and coffees are served in an environment that is inviting and amiable. Kate makes the cakes herself; her favourite being the rich chocolate cake, which, she points out, goes well with a fine loose leaf tea such as English Rose.
Having lived in the city for many years, it was a big move for them, and son Charlie, to rural Devon.
"The lack of green space and good secondary schools made us want to leave London," said Kate. "We felt it would be lovely to live somewhere in the country, to have a fresh start, and to open a new business. We don't miss the 'buzz' of London as such, because Totnes has it all in that respect. We have a fabulous variety of shops and an artistic community providing everybody with a lot of stimulus."
Down the rabbit hole
Although the room may be cosy, Kate and Miles still managed to entertain 32 people at Curiouser & Curiouser recently when they hosted 'Down the Rabbit Hole', an evening of live music. Having played the rhythm guitar for many years, and with his own band Miles Over Matter in the 1980s, Miles has a real passion for music. He explained that the music nights are inspired by a trend he experienced when growing up in America, where many musicians kick start their careers by playing in coffee shops and small bars.
Following on from this success, they are planning further musical and theatrical nights, Alice in Wonderland themed children's birthday parties, and craft days. They also make cakes to order and hire their shop out for special events.
"Perhaps we may move to bigger premises nearby in the future, but we think being small is part of the shop's unique appeal" said Kate.
Kate and Miles put in a great deal of hard work to get the building in tip top condition before opening the doors to Curiouser & Curiouser for the first time.
Said Kate, "Totnes has a lot of charming Tudor buildings that are very old. Ours was full of damp with yellowing plastic walls and sagging ceiling beams. We resolved these problems with a complete refurbishment. I thought it would be lovely to use some real wood inside, so our local carpenter made an elm counter and ash shelves. We also commissioned a local artist to paint an Alice in Wonderland mural for our shopfront.
Future ideas include plans to replace the trapdoor in the shop's floor with glass - thus adding an interesting extra feature to give customers the chance to peer down into the cellar which sits on a bed of Totnes rock.
Not limited to selling just mementos of the famous book however, Curiouser & Curiouser also retails lots of other unusual and quirky gifts, including hand- painted pewter miniatures, mirrors, automata, craft sets, cards, tea sets, Wentworth jigsaw puzzles, books, gift paper, cards, t-shirts, tea towels and some rather unusual lighting and jewellery. And soon you'll be able to buy even more goods online when their new website goes live in July 2014.
What a charismatic little treasure of a place this is. A unique hideaway from the bustling life outside. So browse awhile or sit back and enjoy perfectly brewed tea and scrumptious cake in a delightful setting.
Take a peek inside Curiouser and Curiouser in the virtual tour below. Find them at High Street, Totnes, Devon TQ9 5NN. Tel: 01803 463152 Look them up on Facebook here.
Date: 24 July 2014
Author: The 360 Company