It’s been a busy few years for one of Perth’s much loved independent retailers. Between moving location and having a disastrous flood in her old shop, Dawn Cotton Fuge of Precious Sparkle has somehow managed to find the time to run Perth’s final Scottish Bead Fair, continue running an annual Handmade Show at Perth Concert Hall, and get herself voted in as the chair of the Perth Trader’s Association.
And since moving into her new shop – the old Pretty Things building opposite the concert hall – business has been booming. The change of location has made a big difference and with Christmas fast approaching and her annual handmade show just around the corner, things don’t look like they’ll be slowing down for her anytime soon.
The business has certainly come a long way from its humble origins. New York native Dawn first started by selling online before opening her shop in 2010 and after two changes of location it seems she finally feels like she’s got it right. Becoming one of Perth’s fabulous Indies wasn’t something that she had dreamed about all those years ago growing up in the Big Apple. In fact, what she does now couldn’t be further from her early life which was based around the bright lights of the stage, followed by a spell working in the court rooms of Edinburgh. I love Perth – when we decided to leave Edinburgh I was immediately drawn to it, it just looked like a great place to bring my kids up and geographically it’s perfect.
“I went to the ‘Fame’ school in New York and trained to be a singer,” she told me, “I wanted to be a performer. Then when I turned 18, I left the States and went to Durham University in England where I studied anthropology and sociology.
“Then it was onto Edinburgh University where I studied law, and I ended up getting a job there with a law practice. So, really I had no idea that I would end up having my own shop!”
Life’s a funny old thing though and after seven years working as a lawyer, Dawn – then pregnant with her daughter having already brought her two-year-old son into the world – decided she wanted to move from the capital to somewhere a little quieter to raise her children.
Perth was very appealing to her for a number of different reasons, but it’s clear just from speaking to her that Dawn feels at home here and that she’s passionate about making Perthshire the best place it can be.
“Every day of my life I have people saying to me, ‘where’s home’, and I always say that this is home. Although I grew up in New York I’ve lived in the UK since I was 18 and I moved to Perth years ago to raise my family and work here.
“I love Perth – when we decided to leave Edinburgh I was immediately drawn to it, it just looked like a great place to bring my kids up and geographically it’s perfect.
“It’s absolutely stunning – there are so many beautiful places in and around Perth such as the North Inch, South Inch, Kinnoull Hill – I’m a runner and it’s just perfect for me. Geographically it’s ideal too as we’re right in the centre of Scotland and only 90 minutes away from 90% of the population which is perfect from a trader’s point of view as well.
“With the fantastic concert hall and Perth Theatre reopening, I think we can really become a city which has a brilliant offering of culture and the arts, as well as our unique independent retailers and our wonderful choice of amazing bars and restaurants!”
Settled in picture perfect Perthshire, Dawn had given up her work as a lawyer and was looking for something different. A visit from her aunt from across the pond just after her daughter was born was the catalyst that got what is now Precious Sparkle to go from an online only presence to one of the city’s most established Indies.
“My aunt from America came over to visit us just after my daughter was born and she was a jewellery designer who used a lot of gem stones in her work. I got really interested in it and basically taught myself how to make my own!
“Soon I started making things to sell, and funnily enough the first collection I sold was to Pretty Things! And now, my shop is where Pretty Things was! I started importing beads from the likes of India and that’s really how the business really took off. Funnily enough the first collection I sold was to Pretty Things! And now, my shop is where Pretty Things was!
“I stopped focusing as much on creating and making my own jewellery, although I still do have some of my own stuff, and started bringing in some really nice beads which you couldn’t really get anywhere else in the UK.”
The popularity of beads was high at the time, and it led to Dawn starting Scotland’s only Bead Fair – which she successfully ran for ten years until the final event in the summer of 2017. The once popular beads had dwindled and she decided it was time to focus on other things moving forward. It was also an opportunity for Dawn to explore other options for the shop, bringing in new stock and adapting to her customers’ needs and wants.
“I started the Bead Fair in 2007 because there were events in England and other parts of the world but none in Scotland so I thought it would be perfect to host it in Perth. I ran that for ten years and for a while it was insane! It’s a trend thing though and it’s not as popular at the minute so I decided that this year was going to be the last because I want to focus more time and energy on the shop.
“As the popularity of the beads dwindled a little I knew that I had to change the shop to offer different things more suited to the market and to Perth. Since I was importing from India anyway I started to bring in things like textiles, and then started importing from other places too and it seemed to go down really well.
“Then I started doing furniture and it’s just grown arms and legs! Now I’d say it’s a lifestyle shop – we have lots of things like accessories and jewellery, but also offer things for the house and now clothing too. The main thing I wanted to try and do was make sure that I had something to suit everybody – so the aim is always to never have someone just walk in and walk back out!”
Dawn’s old shop on Charlotte Street was badly flooded in January 2016, and that was the final straw for that location which led to her making enquiries about other potential spaces for Precious Sparkle.
After hearing about the plans for Pretty Things’ proprietor’s retirement, Dawn asked about moving into their shop and she feels it’s one of the best things she’s done in business. Now, she’s aided in the shop by Maureen – who worked for Pretty Things but is now an integral part of the Precious Sparkle team.
“In business I think I could write a book on all the things not to do but it seems now everything has kind of just fallen into place!
“My shop in Charlotte Street flooded in January 2016 which was a nightmare! That was the final nail in the coffin for me really and I knew I had to move, so when I heard that the old Pretty Things shop was potentially going to become available I enquired and got the ball rolling as quickly as possible!
“It was almost seamless because when they closed I came right in and two weeks later we were open. We wanted to make sure that the existing Pretty Things customers were still catered for in my shop, so we’ve taken on some of their lines too.
“Maureen who’s working with me in the shop worked for Pretty Things for years and she is great. I can run things by her and find out if it’s something that Pretty Things tried in the past and if she thinks it might work for us. And since clothes are quite a new thing for me, it’s great having Maureen because she really knows what she’s doing. She jokes that she came with the lease!”
Even though she’s clearly been very busy recently, it hasn’t stopped Dawn getting heavily involved in the local community and in particular, aiming to make Perth a better place for the local traders. She was voted in as chair of the Perth Trader’s Association back in August, and she’s both passionate and excited about what the future holds for Perth.
“That’s been great – I was voted in back in August and I’m really enjoying it. It’s fun to be part of the greater planning on what’s going on in Perth but my main focus is on how we can help traders and trading, and how we as traders can help to grow certain areas of the city.
“Someone asked me the other day who I say as my main competitor and I genuinely don’t think of it like that. I think that we need everybody – we need all of the businesses – because that brings more people into the city and helps us all.
“I think the whole picture is going to change into something unbelievable in the next five years. We’re on the cusp of some great things in Perth. I have to say the council has been planning these for some time and it’s now beginning to take shape. It’s going to be amazing. I’ve been in Perth for 14 years and I’m definitely the most excited I’ve ever been!” We’re on the cusp of some great things in Perth. I've been here for 14 years and I'm definitely the most excited I've ever been!
Next weekend on Sunday 19th November, Dawn is once again running her annual Handmade Show at Perth Concert Hall, coinciding with Perth City Centre’s Winter Festival line-up. Held on the same weekend as the Christmas Light Switch On, Chocolate and Gin Fest and Perth’s Festive Feast, she’s hoping that it’ll be another busy year with some fine stalls brimming with fantastic jewellery, textiles and other great things that would make beautiful Christmas gifts for those looking to get organised for Santa coming.
“The Handmade Show is a brilliant event. We get around 40 exhibitors from across Scotland – largely Perthshire – all proper artisans. We hold it in the concert hall and there’s lots of jewellery, ceramics, things for the house really. Our tagline is kick start your Christmas shopping in style! If you’re looking for something completely unique then this is the place to get it!”
If you haven’t popped in to see Dawn in her fantastic new shop, make sure you do soon as you may find the perfect festive gifts for your loved ones, or something special for yourself. And while you’re in town for the Winter Festival next weekend, be sure to pop along to the Handmade Show too!
You can follow Precious Sparkle on the following social media links:
For more information on the products available at Precious Sparkle, visit their website or contact Dawn and Maureen on 01738 630740.
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