Opening a retail space the same week as a global pandemic hits might not sound like the basis of a success story.
But for Gillian Sheehan, owner of Sandgate’s latest store Oak and Ave, that’s exactly what happened.
“I’m really known for my timing,” she laughed.
Gillian has a background in fashion and formerly owned a studio in Paddington where she designed boutique clothes mainly for the Irish market.
After the GFC, she began helping her husband Marty Steel in his building business, offering home styling for his clients.
Keeping it all in the family was top of Gillian’s mind when she opened Oak and Ave on 26 March.
“We make all the furniture here ourselves,” she said.
“My husband is also a portrait artist – he came second place in the last Bald Archies – and his work is for sale in the shop.
“We stock local as much as we can, or we make it ourselves. Even the candles, I make those. We just had a collaboration with local ceramicist Billie Wood to make a range of mugs and saucers.”
Oak and Ave also specialise in textiles, with cushions handmade in Marrakech from vintage rugs.
“No two pieces are the same,” Gillian said.
Gillian’s fashion designing days are not yet behind her, with plans to launch a clothing collection before the end of the year.
“The clothing collection is taking a little longer – it’s something I used to do full time and now I’m working it around the shop, but it will be on the shop floor before Christmas,” she said.
“It’s a women’s wear range, casual but can be dressed up. A range of skirts and dresses, made from natural fibres, with injections of colour.”
Gillian said she had been delighted by the welcome the store had received from the community.
“The feedback we’re getting is that this is very fresh and new, there’s lots of colour here, but it’s not overwhelming with clutter and colour,” she said.
“I personally like black and white with pops of colour, so the shop is very me.”
Oak and Ave is located on Rainbow Street, next door to the Wired Owl Café. It is open from Wednesdays to Sundays.