How long have you been running your business?
We opened Puffin Republic mid-June 2021, but our original business C’est la Vie has been open for 3 years now. We (Didier and Valerie) originally opened the Annexe across from our café on Commercial Street. We have moved a few times up and down the street, but we have now settled in the former Save the Children shop on Commercial Street.
What was your inspiration for starting your own business?
Didier has a passion for photography and design, after a visit to Shetland many years ago Didier had taken lots of photos which he turned into a postcard collection. Didier contacted the tourist office to see if they would be interested in stocking these photos for sale. Not only did Didier have a range of postcards and gift at the tourist office but also in the Museum. At the time, Didier was working in Paris with several other museums and tourist offices.
Tell us what you offer/sell?
Puffin Republic sells individually designed items by Didier, postcards, photos, mugs, trays, along with unique Shetland designed gifts such as Shetland Tweed bags and purses.
At the back of the shop there is also a work room where local crafters can showcase their work. The space will be used by crafters and lecturers for workshops on knitting, lace, and other specialist crafts. Currently, Eve Eunson a designer who is inspired by the vernacular furniture of Fair Isle and Sophie Peng who is a lecturer in lace will host classes at the venue. Valerie would also like to host knitting classes for the well-known Wool Week
What is your favourite thing about running your own business?
Valerie enjoys being independent but most of all she enjoys meeting new people and spending time with her regular customers. Valerie especially likes to share her love for good French and Spanish food with a Shetland twist. They have also used this methodology at their new gift shop. Valerie hopes to introduce some French gift to the Commercial Street shop in the future.
Why did you choose Lerwick town centre as a location?
For Valerie and Didier, Lerwick was the only place for them to set up their first business, C’est La Vie. Lerwick is the busiest area in Shetland with locals and tourist, so for them Commercial Street was their only option.
What has been the most challenging thing to you, as a business owner, over the last year?
With a raised eyebrow, Valerie says, “of course it has to be Covid”. While Puffin Republic has only been open a few weeks there was a lot of planning going on in the background. The return of people to the street and tourist is very much welcomed.
What would you say to a customer to encourage them to visit your business?
Valerie says, “just pay us a visit and peruse the uniquely designed gifts. Take a look at Eve Eunson’s work on the Fair Isle chair or maybe book into one of the up-and-coming workshops.