Ethical gift shop owners believe refillery could help in cost of living

You can’t help but like Martyn and Ellie Turner, a dedicated couple known by many in their home town of Huntly.

From farmers to crafters, the pair have built a reputation for themselves after deciding to launch a business with no prior experience.

Their love of environmentally friendly products and determination to do their bit for the planet, was engrained long before the concept of sustainability became mainstream.

Martyn and Ellie Turner with their quirky shop mascot, Stan. Image by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Their shop, Ethical Gift Shop & Refillery, does exactly what it says on the tin.

Ellie and Martyn have created an eco conscious bubble of delight, with an eclectic collection of ethical and recycled gifts, clothing plus a refillery in their shop on Duke St.

Thanks to their vision, they have achieved 31,000 refills in the past three years alone, but first opened their doors in 2007.

Their longevity is another remarkable feat, given the many downturns, rise of online shopping and of course the pandemic.

Ellie believes people are now more switched on to the eco friendly way of life. Picture by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

We caught up with them and found out why eco conscious could also be purse friendly against the mounting cost of living.

“Marty worked in the RAF and I was a civil servant, then we decided to go a bit off- piste,” said Ellie.

“We were focused on being eco friendly long before it got cool, then the opportunity to have a shop just came along and we decided to go for it.”

The couple are now in their third premises in a bid to keep up with how much the business has grown, and their current spot has previously been everything from an accountants to a haberdashery.

Beauty products are particularly popular at the shop in Huntly. Picture by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“We started off with fare trade products, that was in August 2007,” said Ellie.

“Everything they do is eco friendly and sustainably sourced, so it fitted in with our ethos.”

By the time the couple relocated to their second shop in 2012, they had more than 80 local crafters on board.

Proof of the talent in the area, Ellie believes it’s still important to be selective.

“There’s so much talent in this area, but crafters have to fit in with us,” she said.

“We want to stock gifts and products that are handmade, and where possible we like to see recycled materials used or even natural materials.”

Ellie and Martyn first got the idea for the refillery after realising that the fare trade five litre bottles which they stocked at the time, might not be ideal for everyone.

The shop on Duke Street in Huntly also offers hand-made cards. Image by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Customers started asking if they could bring their own containers along for filling as required, and the project quickly got underway.

“I didn’t see why not, and then the refillery just took off,” said Ellie.

“I think there’s around 250 items available at the refillery now, we do everything from health and beauty products to chickpeas and household cleaning.

“The demand is getting bigger and we have learnt over the years.

“Shampoos and conditioners do well, as do herbs and spices.

The refillery could enable people to not just help the planet, but save money in the long run. Picture by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“It’s much cheaper then buying the whole jar of spice in the supermarket, when you only need a small amount for whatever you’re cooking that night.”

So far, so eco-friendly, but why has the business continued to flourish despite numerous challenges?

“I think it’s sheer determination,” said Ellie.

“This is our business, we started it and it feels like our baby.

“It’s really hard work running your own business; we are lucky enough in that we are so busy in the day with customers, paperwork doesn’t get done until the evening.

“There are times we have wanted to give up, our customers would say don’t be so daft.”

Speaking of customers, it’s perhaps the rapport which Ellie and Martyn have built up which sees people returning year after year.

Their very first customer still pays them a visit, proof that heart can always be found in small independent businesses.

“People always tell us that we’re cheeky, and they actually pop in to have a banter with us,” said Ellie.

“We love having that rapport and we get to know our customers.

Bring a container along and ditch single use plastic in the process. Image by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“They’ve become our friends over the years and some have even turned shopkeeper for us when we’ve needed to be out for an appointment.

“It’s so lovely to get that kind of support.”

As for what’s next, well it could be time for relocation number four.

“We’re running out of room in our current shop, so we’ll see,” said Ellie.

“We’re just happy doing what we’re doing, and we love knowing so many different people.

“It’s been an awful lot of fun and as I always say; you have to be daft to carry on in life.”

For more information, give the shop a follow on Facebook @Ethical Gift Shop & Refillery, pop in past or head to the website at www.ethicalgiftshop.co.uk


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