When I say I had an eye opener of a day this past Saturday, I'm not kidding. How often do we all sit and browse online stores and place orders or travel to nearby cities to find that perfect Christmas gift? Have you ever thought, hang on! Maybe there's a store in my local town that stocks that exact item? Admittedly I stopped and thought of that possibility so rarely that when I was confronted with what my town had to offer I was in complete shock, in the best possible way.
Ballymoney Chamber of Commerce invited me to have a browse in and around some stores in my local town of Ballymoney, I was intrigued as some of those stores had become what I would refer to as 'Window Lusts', the type of store where you gaze dreamily at their window displays but never actually go into. Now I've had the chance to go into those stores, I would be hard pushed to believe I'll remain outside in the cold looking in, with my nose pressed up against the glass for if I believed the windows looked amazing... that was nothing compared to inside those stores and the passion of the retailers I had the pleasure of chatting with on my visit.
Why not stop, grab a cuppa and come with me while I take you on a digital tour of the amazing places Ballymoney has to offer.
Restored is a space to stop, grab a coffee in a peaceful surrounding and browse beautiful giftware at the same time. You can actually have coffee and a treat as you pick up some gifts, it really doesn't get more convenient than this. In addition there are rumours that Restored sell the best homemade fudge in town, a fact I'm going to have to test out I reckon!
Next we headed to the powerhouse style store for women in Ballymoney, The Winsome Lady, a store I've long gazed into the windows of...
Stocked full of handpicked brands perfect for stylistas of any age, The Winsome Lady had me falling in love with so many pieces that I now feel I absolutely NEED for my wardrobe. From Kate Cooper coats that scream Chanel, to on trend pieces such as the gorgeously stylish faux fur collared capes (pictured above), there was something for everyone and the space itself is such a calm and luxurious setting, perfect for those who love to take their time to browse and people should definitely take the time to really see all that is on offer in The Winsome Lady because I was astonished! I can't wait to pop in again.
I then had the perfect opportunity to head into a store in Ballymoney that I'm already fairly acquainted with as it's where we would usually take Kiddo for his school shoes. Each and every time I'm in I make a point of adding to my wishlist. With brands such as Mustang, Clarks, Barbour and Converse, Cordners is a brilliant spot for those who love shoes. I dare you to try and walk past their window without picking out at least 3 new pairs you feel would complete your life...
I was then given the Hollywood treatment in Stephen Cairns Hairdressing and I should say, the bows on the doors are extremely apt considering how much of a treat it was. Little tip, if you're treating yourself to a quick blowdry in the run up to Christmas (and you should, all that rushing about... you should really do something for you), remember to ask for the conditioning head massage treatment because I promise you, after that? you will feel an absolute weight has been lifted. You might walk into the salon stressed, panicked and anxious about all you still have to do and organise but you will walk out feeling as though you're walking on air, relaxed and ready to get back to shopping!
After a quick stop to refuel at The Clock Tower Restaurant we headed just around the corner where I found another few stores with some fantastic brands I didn't even know where stocked in Ballymoney Town. I couldn't recommend The Clock Tower more for their food, it's so nice to find somewhere offering good, homecooked food! It was a delicious spot for lunch and one I'd never been in before, I'll certainly be in it again though.
I was delighted to discover some really fantastic brands stocked in Albert McAuley's, from the moment I walked in I knew this was a store I'd completely underestimated. Everywhere you turn there is a gift for someone, sitting, beautifully displayed with bright colours and a rustic feel. I spotted Bog Standard Candles and Paddywax Candles as well as Avoca! They have a beautiful card section which is stocked with luxury cards, not the cheap style you find so commonly now but proper old school luxury cards with beautiful messages inside and stunning notebooks that you could fool yourself into thinking you'll write in but if you're anything like me you will deem too pretty and instead keep displayed somewhere in your home... I know I'm not the only one!
Next up was another store that I've long since admired... from outside, and in doing so missed the fact that Emma Bridgewater is a brand stocked in my own town! Isn't it funny yet sad that there is so much overlooked right on our own doorstep?
Let's split this one into two because not only does Robert Gault stock one of my favourite homeware brands, it really is a store of two halves...
The ground floor is dedicated to men's fashion. The moment you walk in the door you will be greeted by the most stylish mannequins in town. Packed full of fantastic brands such as Remus Uomo, this is a store for men who love style, they can be fitted for the perfect wedding suit or just treat themselves whilst you head upstairs.
Everywhere I turned in the upstairs of Robert Gault, it was as though interior style magazines had come to life in front of my eyes. I fell in love with everything I saw and I will absolutely be back to this store, not just because it stocks Emma Bridgewater but because it was such a beautiful space to take time out and really have a look at everything that there is on offer. I adored how items where displayed within little nooks, each of which were so incredibly stylish. You'll probably redecorate your entire home at least twice walking around.
Next up was a store I had been to before, Lou's Boutique, I'd actually treated myself to a beautiful pair of glitzy earrings for the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards when I was a Finalist. They stock every colour of clutch bag you could possibly need alongside some really beautiful bags and purses at budget friendly prices. Always a good gift option when you don't really know what to get your Mum or Mother in Law.
Finally, we rounded our tour off with a cuppa in Anne Shiels Jewellers where I was given the master key to the cabinets containing so many sparkles, it was one of the best hours I've ever spent! There were stunning Belleek Christmas Decorations including Snowglobes that I know I am going back for, there were Galway Crystal glasses which would be a perfect wedding gift for any couple and the watches, oh my word, the watches!
As the evening drew to a close and I sat down with Anne from Anne Shiels, and her daughter, Louise, who was my tour guide for the day (and new BFF as it happens), the beautiful lights were glowing, the Christmas lights were on outside and I had my very own Home Alone 2 New York gift moment when Louise took me up to the front of a stunning display of Lola Rose watches and asked which my eye was drawn to... out of curiosity. When I pointed out the most beautiful watch I've ever seen (gold, marble, white everything) she smiled at me and reached it out offering it as a gift. It was one of those moments in life that I really won't forget nor the fact that such a gorgeous watch is the perfect memento of a wonderful day spent chatting to the amazing and passionate people that make up Ballymoney Town.
And so that brought us to closing time, where I was able to take a minute to really appreciate all I'd heard and seen in Ballymoney. I couldn't speak more highly of Our Wee Town here now, it is made up of retailers who really do care about their customers and their high street. We owe them our support and at a time where high streets the country over are struggling why not make the decision to take a day and pop in to support your local retailers in the run up to Christmas because if there's one thing I took away from my tour of Ballymoney it was this; these people, the retailers we so often overlook right on our own doorstep, really do care. They painstakingly select the perfect items to stock, they take the time to create such dreamy displays of those items and they will remember you. That's the most important part. These retailers thrive on repeat custom and they love nothing more than getting to know you. Can you really say the same of big department store websites and the like? I've come away with a renewed passion for the town I live in and I know I will shop Ballymoney this Christmas. Will you?
Thank you so much to Louise, Winnie and all of the retailers involved in making my tour the wonderful experience it was and thank you to the Ballymoney Chamber of Commerce for embracing bloggers and writers and allowing us to come in and really get to know the faces behind the store fronts.
To keep up to date with all things shopping in Ballymoney, head over to either their Facebook page - Ballymoney Enjoy Our Town, or follow their brand new Twitter @shopballymoney
It truly was a wonderful experience of which I'm entirely thankful for.