In the year that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many different brands and companies that I admire. However, I feel the need to help the businesses in my local area in a somewhat different capacity by shining the spotlight onto them. As such, I’m planning to write a “Local Business Spotlight” regularly, (perhaps monthly), focusing on a business local to me. And where better to start than the wonderful Munns of Gravesend, which was quite possibly the very first business I admired?
I have to say, I’ve never really been a fan of the dominance of chain shops on the High Street. Wherever I go, I try to venture to where the smaller independent shops are hiding. They’re where you can find the real treasures. Munns of Gravesend has always been a treasure trove to me. From a very young age, I’d be full of excitement and ask my parents or grandparents to take me there when we were in Gravesend town centre. Something just feels special about it. I love the quirks of its squeaky floor boards and the way the ground rumbles underneath when a train goes by.
The shop front itself shows its history to some extent; old photos show it has scarcely changed for absolutely decades. I had the pleasure of talking to Mr Munns a few weeks ago, during which conversation he told me that Munns has been in business since 1904. It was originally a photography business run by his grandfather, which occupied one shop space (it hasn’t always occupied both number 8 and 9 Windmill Street). Shortly after World War II, Mr Munns’ father took over. He started doing things other than photography and there was no master plan as such. However, the gifts and stationery side of things took over and the photography side of things stopped in the late 1960’s. Photographs can be found sold on eBay, which are very compelling to look at. I think it’s fantastic that such a wonderful family business has been going for such a long time; Mr Munns still has the shop with his wife and son George.
There is an abundance of stationery and materials for arts and crafts at Munns. From pencils to putty rubbers and stencils to spray paint, you can pretty much find it all. There’s dye for material, card making materials, oil, acrylic , watercolour paints and pastels in an array of colours, all kinds of paintbrushes, writing sets and lovely notebooks.
They also have a fantastic range of pens and all sorts of useful things like tags and labels. I’d be here all day if I wrote about everything in detail. It’s no wonder when I worked in Gravesend that I often used to spend the majority of my lunchtimes marvelling over all the bits and bobs I could get creative with. I often used to get myself a little treat and as I look through my stationery drawer and art drawer I can still pick out which things came from Munns.
When I was little, I always used to hold my breath as I was so scared of knocking anything over. There are all sorts of wonderful gifts in Munns. As such, it’s always one of the first places I look if Christmas or a birthday are coming up. Since Autumn was born, I’ve taken notice more of the children’s things. As well as a beautiful range of Peter Rabbit things including ornaments and cutlery, there are lots of wooden toys. Autumn really enjoys plastic toys with their buttons. However, I just think there’s something brilliant about wooden toys and how they encourage children to use their imaginations.
When I was a child, I was rarely bored because I had such a good imagination. I’d look out of the window and daydream, read or go to my room and write and illustrate my own story. As such, I’m keen for Autumn to be the same. Autumn has a Jemima Puddleduck push along toy from Munns, as well as a Peter Rabbit puzzle. There are lots of other things I’ve already earmarked for her when she’s older! They also have a whole variety of different puppets hanging from the ceiling too. These proved a great distraction to a grouchy Autumn the other month!
For older children, there are various drawing books and craft sets. Many of the ones available there today are the same things I enjoyed when I was a child, such as ‘paint your own stain glass window’. For adults, there are all kinds of beautiful ornaments, picture frames, prints, bags, notebooks and trays. When I went Christmas shopping in October, I knew I wasn’t going to come away empty handed as soon as I stepped in.
Over recent years, I’ve found the chain card shops very samey. Munns have a good selection of cards for all occasions, as well as some lovely wrapping paper. As such, it’s always my first port of call for cards in Gravesend. Plus, they don’t charge silly amounts, which is always a bonus!
Yet another service Munns provide is framing and mounting of pictures. A scroll through their Facebook page shows this lovely photo they took and coloured in 1941 in Woodlands park. They had the pleasure of reframing it in 2016.
Dave and I had a mount made for a large photo above our mantelpiece by Munns around 5 years ago now. We’d bought a frame, but the size of the photo was strange and we couldn’t find a mount for it anywhere. Munns was the answer, of course, and we were very pleased with it.
If you find yourself in or near Gravesend in Kent and love crafts, I implore you to visit. It really is a wonderful shop. Every time I enter I’m taken straight back to the childhood wonder I experienced and the memory of buying my first putty rubber!
If you know a business in Kent or Medway that you think I should feature, I am open to suggestions! Please email me at [email protected]