Pollarded willow, Thirsk
Green Profile #2
Whether it’s a corner shop or a PLC, we think that local businesses doing their bit for the environment deserve some recognition. For our second Green Profile, Thirsk FoE’s roving reporter Sara called in at Kristina's on Kirkgate, Thirsk.
SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING – PEOPLE AND PLANET
Kristina’s on Kirkgate is more than just a business. Shop owner Kristina Beck has a deep-rooted passion for fair trade, ethical shopping and putting people and planet first.
You’ll find Kristina’s on Kirkgate nestled between Johnson’s of Thirsk butchers and Magic Wok Chinese Takeaway. Easily spotted by its signature rainbow logo and vibrant window display, this is a shop not to be passed by.
Kristina’s has a wide range of Fair Trade and sustainable products, including giftware, baby and children’s clothing, home essentials and a fantastic refill range. Even her shop desk is made from a reclaimed hospital fire door that was set for landfill, and when COVID struck her dad rescued and repurposed an old patio door that otherwise would have been skipped.
“It was always my dream to open a shop and have my own business. I didn’t want to just open any shop selling anything, though. When I originally started, I knew that I wanted to be an ethical business and so my focus back then was on fair trade.”
“As I have grown and progressed with the business, I have become much more interested in sustainability as a whole. For me it’s people and planet, there is no point in protecting the planet if we’re exploiting the people. We must do both.”
As a child Kristina found herself supporting various local and worldwide charities through school. She was involved in various team projects, from raising money for children in Africa to setting up a tea co-operation called Equali-tea for tea farmers. For Kristina, Fair Trade makes sense – it’s part of her.
“I need to know 100% that each product that I sell is fairly traded and ethical. I need to know that it’s right from start to finish. I can’t get my head around selling something that I don’t know how it’s made or where it comes from. I couldn’t bare selling products that exploit people or planet. Imagine buying a jigsaw for your child’s birthday that was made by a child – the thought is just awful.”
“For me, trade not aid is really important. Giving people in less fortunate countries dignity is vital. People who are supported with their business rather than just being given hand-outs can sustain their business for the future. People want to work and support their families. When you buy and sell fair trade goods, you’re helping to put that support network in place.”
Diversifying the range
Following several years of success, customer requests, and a growing appreciation for sustainability, Kristina introduced refills to her range.
“It started with shampoo. I had unsuccessfully tried several shampoo bars, they’re just not for me. I looked around at what else I could find and sourced refillable shampoos. I spoke to Susan at Earth Unwrapped in Northallerton, and she shared a lot of advice with me.”
“It really evolved from there, as people come in for their refills, they often ask for new products. It’s led to stocking all kinds of products from laundry liquids, tin foil, bin bags and other household items. I try my best to find locally made goods; the refills are from a local place in West Yorkshire. Anything I can’t find locally I stick to my fair trade ethos.”
Humbled by community support
“People are now looking in their local businesses, finding things they would never have found previously and sticking with it. Local support through COVID has been immense, I can’t even describe it – I’ve felt so humbled, it has been amazing,” says Kristina.
“Things were nerve-wracking when COVID first hit. I had to live month by month and hope that the orders kept coming in. I had to shut initially, but once the government guidelines became clearer, I offered a delivery service. I spent a lot of time in the shop photographing stock for customers. Customers were really supportive. I was able to wait for group deliveries to reduce the emissions from multiple car journeys – this was made easier by like-minded customers who also put people and planet first.”
Throughout COVID-19 Kristina has had to think of new ways to draw people into her shop. This is where her partnership with Earth Unwrapped in Northallerton began to flourish. After years of supporting each other while they built up their businesses, sharing advice and ordering complementary stock, Kristina and Susan decided to team up and bring zero-waste food shopping to Thirsk.
“For me it was about giving the people of Thirsk something that they wanted but wasn’t on offer yet. I don’t benefit financially from the service – I am content knowing that I can give people what they want whilst doing my bit for the planet. One Thursday a month I go through to Northallerton and help to fill customers’ empty jars with what they need. It started with around 2 or 3 but each week we get more – last week we had a car full! It’s a service that people want, but for me it’s more than that. If I do one journey into Northallerton for multiple orders, it saves numerous customer journeys and their carbon emissions. It’s all about the people and the planet for me.”
Thirsk’s smallest department store
So, what’s next for Kristina’s? From small humble beginnings in her living room six years ago, opening her first shop in Thirsk, to moving to new larger premises on Kirkgate, the sky truly is the limit for Kristina.
“I’ve recently had my second baby Edith, and my eldest Ralph is off to school in September. Throw in a house move to the mix and I’m not sure I’ve got time at the minute for much more! My husband Andy is really supportive, on top of running his own gardening business – we’re both running small, independent businesses.”
“I call myself Thirsk’s smallest department store,” laughs Kristina. “But seriously, I would love to expand my clothing range. I think ethical and sustainable clothing is so important, and right now I can only stock baby and children’s clothing due to the size of my shop. I’d love to be able to stock more adult clothing to offer something different to my customers, something that I haven’t seen elsewhere in Thirsk.”
Kristina’s is a shop with a conscience. You can purchase with the knowledge that you are supporting a local independent shop that has lovingly picked each item with care, putting both people and planet first. In Kristina’s words – “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” So, get yourself across to Kirkgate, I promise you won’t be disappointed!