First Blog Since Our Rebrand

We rebranded and re-opened in June 2018.  it has been aone great ride since then, until the lockdown a month ago.

Being forced to close our physical shop in Claygate has enabled us to:

  • Write our first blog post (this one) for three years – yippee.
  • Uploaded about 60% of our stock items onto our online shop.
  • Delivered many of our online orders to local customers during our daily exercise. We offer free delivery via Royal Mail and free doorstep delivery to customers living in KT10, ie, Claygate & Esher
  • Set up an Instagram Page – catandmouseclaygate – a cheeky follow would be nice!

We hope everyone of our customers are keeping safe and well.

We hope to see you all as soon as this thing is over. Meanwhile please keep window shopping in

Gary & Mary

The Surbiton Festival

Hoi Polloi has had a shop in Surbiton for nearly 20 years. For everyone of those years (and we understand for many years before that) there has been a joyous Saturday in late September  when there has been a Grand Parade and street festival in Victoria Road. On a sunny day, and it is remarkable how many Saturdays in September are sunny, many thousands of residents and visitors come to central Surbiton to watch and participate in the Festival, especially shopping in the Victoria Road market and watching the eclectic carnival like atmosphere of the  grand parade including the tea lady on stilts performing her tricks with her trolley and the wonderful vintage cars.

Since Bob Noble started coordinating the organisation of the festival several years ago (and we understand that such organisation, like the painting of The Forth Bridge, begins as soon as the current festival ends) the festival  has steadily morphed in stages from a one day event to a  fortnight of full on fun and entertainment, which celebrates all that Surbiton has to offer and believe me that is a lot!

Surbiton is no longer Surburbiton (it never really was). It is most definitely Superbiton thanks to organisations like The Surbiton Festival, The Farmers Market and of course the very many wonderful creative events organised by villagers of The Spirit of Seething .

To find out about The Surbiton Festival this year (branded surbofifteen) please visit their website

and of course, don’t forget to join in on some of the events including what is still the highlight of the Festival, the Grand Parade on Haturday (yes HATURDAY) 26 September

Made in the Hood – Local Suppliers

Made in The Hood logo - coloured foil - half size


Recently we sent out requests through modern means, including social media, and more traditional means, such as posters on our shop windows and word of mouth requesting local designers craftspeople and artists to contact us if they wanted an outlet to stock and sell their lovingly crafted creations.

So far fifteen local designers in Claygate and Surbiton have made contact. We are methodically seeing them and their products. Some have declined to participate but we are having continuing dialogue with most of the others and we are still encouraging yet more to contact us.

Why did we do this?

Although Hoi Polloi has always tried to be different from most gift shops and lifestyle boutiques it has been increasingly hard to find traditional giftware, home ware, furniture and card companies who are doing things just that bit different from each other .We have always felt we had been successful at doing this over the past eighteen years. However, we have become increasingly aware over the past twelve months or so that these traditional companies have become a little too safe in their new products. Many are copying, or at least imitating each other, which means many new  products look similar to one another and true creativity although still happening, in some cases,  is occurring less and less frequently. Fortunately we have been mainly successful in finding new companies and sticking with the ones who are bucking the sameness trend and being adventurous.

However the result of this trend is like most of the modern high streets, gift shops and the like have been increasingly looking the same and not offering real choice to discerning shoppers.

Thus we have a vacancy in our shops for more diverse  products, items  that are truly different from the vast majority of other shops.

One option open to us would be to source products from other countries ourselves rather than letting giftware and home ware companies do this for us and buying their products at trade fairs. This way we would cut out the middleman/woman and make the selection process completely down to us. We still plan to do this in some areas and we have our eye on two European countries specifically,

The major alternative to this non UK approach is to look very closely on our own doorstep in Claygate, Surbiton and nearby areas for those local designers who are being particularly adventurous.

Over the past few years, we had been approached by quite a few local people who in their own words wanted to get their products “out there!”

Unfortunately, although we would have liked to help local craftspeople there were usually several stumbling blocks

Sometimes the product was simply not good enough, or poorly made. If we liked the product and quality was good it was normally too expensive. Mostly this was because the craftspeople didn’t really understand wholesale prices and the costs of running a high street retail shop.

Sometimes designers wanted us to sell items in our shop for say £20 and would insist on selling directly to customers via their own website or Facebook for say £15. This meant that we were just a showroom and it made customers think we were relatively expensive if they were internet savvy.

Other times the products did not compare favourably with our existing mainstream stock and other times they just didn’t complement our other ranges. Lastly some locals wanted their products to be stocked in other local shops too.

Of course, on a couple of occasions we just didn’t have the foresight and played safe ourselves.

Ok then, what has changed?

The blandness and safety first approach of national suppliers (see above) has begun to annoy us.

Many local designers have really upped their game by increasing the quality of their products, designing products that people actually want and lowering their costs of production, or at least providing realistic wholesale prices. Such crafters have also worked hard to establish retail channels for themselves. For example, the “Made in Surbiton” group have been particularly successful and enterprising in establishing themselves at the growing number of local markets that have recently arisen in the wonderfully creative town of Surbiton.

We have endeavoured to create a new business model which we think is a win:win for Hoi Polloi and the local supplier. It enables the craftsperson to do what they like to do and what they do best, which  is designing and creating their lovely products . At the same time it enables us to do what we like to do and what we do best and that is selling stuff that is both pretty and useful. This model won’t work for every local craftsperson of course and nor should it.  However it will work for many and it does encourage diversity and certainly helps artists who don’t want to to spend a significant amount of time selling their own products directly to consumers.

We have really wanted to change our own mindset and we have become committed to boosting the local economy. It is the zeitgeist. Many people want to buy locally from local suppliers

Anyway, this week is a big week for us because we officially started stocking the lovely products of the first local company that has agreed to partner with us. This company is Better Bunting, a Surbiton based home business run by Rachel Crunkhorn. This week might be a big week for us; however today, Friday 30, will be a huge day for Rachel because she is getting married. So let’s raise a glass to our new partnership and an even bigger glass to the bride and groom.

To finish, we encourage you to look in our Surbiton, Claygate and this online shop for more of our “Made in the Hood” products.

Buy local and shop local


Surbiton Food Festival – 2014


Today we got a Facebook invitation for a party on 30th June for all the people who participated in the recent Surbiton Food Festival. Therefore it is probably a good time to reflect on the festival itself and Hoi Polloi’s participation in it

News of its imminent arrival was heralded by Surbiton’s yarn bombers

It opened shortly afterwards with The Apple Blossom Open Day and The Seething Freshwater Sardine Festival on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th May respectively.

The middle weekend, the 10th and 11th May was marked by The Surbiton Village Fete and Dry Hopped Beer Festival.

The final weekend featured The Surbiton Farmers Market and The Seething Community Sports Day on and Picnic both on Saturday 17th May  and The Big Brunch on Sunday 18th May

Throughout the fortnight of the festival local pubs and restaurants organised a plethora of events including a children’s pizza workshop, cheese tastings, dim sum cookery classes, Peruvian cerviche, a hog roast & boule event and several live music evenings. For the full programme please see

Of particular note was the May Creative Youth Gala Dinner at The Holiday Inn Kingston, where the guest of honour was the President of Creative Youth,HRH The Earl of Wessex, KG, GCVO.

The Surbiton Food Festival also saw the introductory trial of (the very interesting and community minded) The Kingston Pound.


Ok then what did Hoi Polloi do?

  • We took a leading role in the in the inaugural brainstorming meeting, most follow up planning meetings and helped liaise with other local retail businesses.
  • We ran a stall n the Sunday of The Surbiton Village Fete, which was most enjoyable.
  • We advertised in the programme
  • We had a special offer of  20% off all food and table related items throughout te festival
  • We took part in the Kingston Pounds trial throughout the festival and still taking them until 31 May
  • We bought our own personal Kingston Pounds and spend them all at The Village Fete on delicious food and thirst quenching drinks
  • We promoted the Festival and Kingston Pound physically in our shop and frequently on various forms of social media
  • We have a herb planter outside our shop and perhaps most importantly..
  • We attended and enjoyed immensely many of the events and
  • We cannot wait for next year!

So put the following dates in your diary .

Surbiton Food Festival – 2 to 17 May 2015



This entry was posted on 22/05/2014. 1 Comment

Claygate Spring Festival

The Poster for t the Spring In To Claygate event

The Poster for the Spring In To Claygate event


For much of February, March and early April,  I led the Claygate Lifestyle Experience Team (Simon Baile of ExCellar, Hannah Young of Ceramica and me) in the organisation of the inaugural Claygate Spring Festival. This event was inspired by The Claygate Network the local group on Linkedin and supported by the Claygate Village Association. We obtained some funding from Surrey County council from the Surrey County Councillor for Hinchley Wood, Claygate and Oxshott, Mike Bennison and from Elmbridge Borough Council. Mike as Mayor of Elmbridge opened the main event – the Spring In To Claygate event on Saturday 5 April with his wife Mary. The organisation of the event took much more time and effort than we initially estimated. However, it was worth it because everyone who participated in the event, whether as a stallholder, entertainer  or visitor had a great time. Below are the thanks:

1.Thanks to Ian Yates founder of TCN for the original idea, who ran a TCN stall looking for community volunteers
2.Thanks to the Claygate Village Association (CVA) for their good grace, support and guidance, It was in fact a CVA event, led by the Claygate Lifestyle Experience team.
3 A special thank you, to Mike Hunter, who gave me guidance in working with, Elmbridge Borough Council to close the roads, obtaining the barriers and road closed signs, liaising with local residents, obtaining the PA system and a myriad of other things.
4.Thanks to Geoff Herbert ( Claygate Parish Councillor) of Claygate Parish Council and his volunteer marshal team, Graham, Dave, Charlie & Bernadette (The TCN team – see Youtube video below), George and Bertie (the young muscle duo) and Vanessa Relleen (CVA) for giving up their time and perhaps having the hardest job of all – dealing with some disgruntled motorists.
5.Thanks to our volunteer experienced First Aiders, Yvonne Hill-Charlwood (TCN), Kate Hone (SCC & EBC) and their team leader, Mary Marshal (Claygate Parish Councillor) who also helped run the CPC stall as well as handing out flyers for the Claygate Lifestyle Experience.
6 Thanks to the Mayor of Elmbridge, Mike Bennison, who opened the event and stayed for about 3 hours with the Lady Mayor, Mary. Mike as Surrey County Councillor for Hinchley Wood, Claygate and Oxshott also gave a contribution to the funding of the event.
7.Thanks to Mark Sugden (Claygate Parish Councillor) for giving us some valuable advice during the 6 week organising period and for running the CPC stall with Mary Marshal.
8.Thanks to Nigel Abbott of Claygate Cricket Club. Nigel was the Master of Ceremonies and he did a long stint creatively and humorously, as well as organising the model cricket match on Grosvenor Billinghurst’s lawn.
9.Thanks to Derek Huff for lending us the sound/PA system.
10.Thanks to The Foley Unknowns for entertaining us and setting up the sound system
11. Thanks to the Community Organisations and small home businesses that came along and helped made the whole event both fun and work. Such organisations (in no particular order were: the Claygate Village Association, the Claygate Parish Council, the Claygate Flower & Village Show, Holy Trinity Church, Claygate Cricket Club, The Claygate Network (TCN), 1st Claygate Scouts, Esher District Guides (Claygate Guides), Chadsworth Stage School, Claygate Montessori School, Spirit Combat Kingston, Sherry Secker Recycling, A3 Baby Barn, The Shetland Pony Club (Loseberry Farm), Catherine Lippe Nutrition, Copeland-Cale Photography, the Surrey Advertiser, Scentsey, Zoe, and Bennett’s Dance Club
12.Thanks to the 20 traders who did something different on the day, such as running competitions, giving away goodies, and getting Alice Bear to come along.
13.Thanks to the other members of the Claygate Lifestyle Experience team (Simon Baile of ExCellar & Hannah Young of Ceramica) for their hard work and optimism and thanks to Simon Dunand of Grosvenor Billinghurst for help with promoting the event.
14.Lastly, a special thanks to the Claygate Villagers who came along to “Spring In to Claygate”. It was you who made the event worthwhile.



Remembrance Sunday – Claygate – 10 November 2013

Mary, Alice and me planned to do some sorting in our warehouse yesterday, in preparation for the arrival of Christmas stock.

However it was such a beautiful morning we popped down to the old village in Claygate and attended the remembrance ceremony at the War Memorial. As usual, lots of villagers were out in force paying their respect and the uniformed organisations were resplendent in their uniforms and flags. We stayed on for the remembrance service at Holy Trinity which was poignant and standing room only. I  felt a so much better for belting out the hymns, although the people around him probably wished I sang a little more softly.

Afterwards we had a coffee at The Pavilion Cafe and had a very pleasant long walk in the Surrey Hills.

Sooo much better than a tidy up of the warehouse. Sometimes procrastination is good.


Furniture Delivery Day

Recently we had furniture delivery day. This is when one of our major suppliers delivers a lot of furniture.  It is always a stressful but exciting day. We cross our fingers so that:

1)      Everything we ordered arrives

2)      It arrives safely and undamaged

3)      We like what we bought

4)      It isn’t raining

Everything arrived. Everything arrived undamaged. We liked the things we have never stocked before, especially the Rustic French Farmhouse Furniture. However it was raining and humid which meant that it was particularly hard work unpacking everything, displaying what we wanted to use in the shops and putting away the remainder in storage.

Of course we also had a mountain of cardboard and polystyrene to safely dispose of, which we carefully packaged ready for the commercial recyclers to arrive today – an expensive but very useful service.

All in all it was a very hard working but satisfying day indeed.  All we have to do now is sell it.  J We won’t be too disappointed if some of the pieces don’t sell though, because we will keep them for our personal use.


Social Plugins

Had a social media “day” today

Set up a Google + page and added all our social media pages to the main page of our web site and all the product pages too! I believe that is called plug ins. Took me quite a long time to do but was successful after quite a few mistakes

We now have a Facebook Page, A Twitter account, a Linkedin page, a Pinterest account, a blog, a Youtube Channel and maybe we have forgotten one or two.

Perhaps we are most proud of out Twitter account. This week we achieved our 700th follower.

Will try to keep this blog up to date with more news

Our First Blog Post

Welcome to our Blog.

This is the third birthday of our online shop. Our Claygate Shop is nearly 4 years old. Our Surbiton shop will be 18 in January. Our daughter, Alice, was 10 on Sunday. Our son, Erol will be 31 on Thurday.

Therefore lots of happy birthday’s and a belated one to Prince George.