Words by Bethany Allen
Celebrating the delicate beauty of femininity through collections that embrace every day glamour in a coastal setting.
Founded by Jo Eldridge in December 2014, Jo & Co is a lifestyle store the likes of which is not seen anywhere else in Cornwall. Bringing a delicate touch of femininity to Cornwall’s coastline, collections in both homeware and fashion are filled with soft pastels and the luxuriously comforting textures of cashmere, velvet and suede.
Jo Eldridge, founder of Jo & Co
Situated just outside Wadebridge, Jo & Co stands alone as an out of town shopping destination. “We’re very feminine,” says Jo. “Whenever people come to our store, they can take a breath and enjoy the space for what it is. Even if they don’t buy anything, we’ll have women come into the store just because they enjoy being there.”
Having studied fashion, marketing and communications at Nottingham Trent University, Jo has always had a huge interest in retail. “Straight after university I went and worked at the bottom rung of the sales team at Mulberry, it was a real learning curve for me and one that I really enjoyed because before that I’d only ever experienced retail from the shop front.”
As we sit and discuss the story behind Jo & Co it’s clear that retail is where Jo’s passion lies. After graduating, Jo worked at Mulberry for a year and then moved into advertising as an Account Manager for a further six years. “Although I had a bit of a break from retail, I always knew in my bones that I wanted to have my own store at some point. Then the opportunity came up at Hawksfield and it was the first time ever that I was in a position where I was able to say ‘yes, let’s do this’.” When Jo’s father-in-law bought Hawksfield, it was little more than a run-down old garage, however he saw its potential and had the passion to renovate the buildings to create a café, shops and a deli. “It was always his passion to turn what was this old garage into a shopping hub,” Jo explains. “With this in mind he approached me and asked if it was something I would like to do and even though the timing wasn’t exactly right – I was six months pregnant with my first child at the time – I just knew in my heart that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. It was a new venture for everybody and a learning curve for us all.”
So, six months pregnant and fresh out of a career in advertising, Jo took on the challenge of setting up the entire shop, handling everything from the design to the layout. “It was an old industrial building so I had to take on everything from setting out the layout, the lighting, the buying, sourcing all the goods, the branding, absolutely everything,” Jo exclaims. “With the help of my husband Tom, I was in charge of making sure it all came together, which was a blessing really because it meant that I had complete autonomy over the brand that I wanted to create.”
In regards to the branding itself, everything at Jo & Co is simple with clean lines and that ever-present hint of femininity. “I toyed around with a few names at the time and finally we came up with Jo & Co Home.” Initially Jo & Co was solely an interior store, but it has since grown into a fully fledged lifestyle store with homeware, clothing, beauty products, jewellery, accessories and books. “I always wanted it to be a lifestyle store,” says Jo. “It was my aim to get to that point, we simply couldn’t afford to do it on day one so at the beginning it was just interiors. Then gradually over the space of a few years, we introduced some more lifestyle pieces by adding in things like jewellery and the odd bit of clothing. That’s what has got us to where we are today, because although where we are today was always planned, we had to implement a strategic approach to get there financially.”
Now, Jo & Co has grown from an interiors store into a multi-brand lifestyle store. “We have such a huge offering now,” Jo continues. “Whether you just want a gift, something for your home, a new outfit or shoes. Essentially, we are a women’s emporium.” Not to mention that the store offers a completely free personal service. Stylists will spend hours with you choosing outfits for whatever occasion, which is a level of service that you rarely see on the high street. “People choose to shop with us not only because they like the store but because the level of service is so much more than what you would get on the high street, where you’re left to roam around on your own. At Jo & Co you get an immediate ‘hello, can I help you, is there anything in particular that you’re looking for?’ Women will walk out with completely styled outfits and it’s a service that we provide all the time.”
Additionally, if you are unable to make it into the store, pretty much everything that you will find at Jo & Co is available online via the website. So, if you’ve fallen in love with the Jo & Co brand, then you can rest assured that you’ll always have access to the Jo & Co lifestyle. In regards to the interior side of the business, Jo wants to curate a sense of comfort and ease. “I’ve always had a very simple taste with that edge of glamour and femininity,” Jo tells me. “I think it’s the same with the interiors, nothing’s ever boring, there’s always something about everything that makes it interesting. Each item has a unique aspect and can just as easily fit into an old farm cottage in the countryside, or into a brand-new contemporary build on the beach.”
Another element of the business that has developed over the last few years is Jo’s design service as customers request her personal input on the interior design of their homes. “I’m being asked more and more to go and completely design someone’s house for them because they just want Jo & Co and nothing else.” Jo has seen a gap in the market for a communication-led interior design service. “Lots of people don’t want their entire house designed for them, but at the same time, they find it very hard to source products because it’s such a long-winded process. So, what I’ll do is go to someone’s house and advise them on particular furniture pieces that would look good in their home. It’s more of a communication service than a black and white design service, and it’s a service that’s very much on a personal front, with me and the client working closely together to create the desired look.” What lies at the heart of the Jo & Co concept is ‘something special for every day’; Jo lives by the idea that even if she is only wearing jeans and a t-shirt she’ll still have that one thing to make it special, whether it’s a beautiful piece of jewellery or a really attractive pair of shoes. “When I moved to Cornwall I found that there wasn’t anywhere that I wanted to shop. Even if it’s just everyday glamour, I like to wear a soft, pastel jumper or a pretty blouse and I found that there wasn’t really an offering for that here. With that being said, the introduction of high-end brands that have been carefully curated and chosen to be accessible, from a price point of view, to lots of different markets is what’s appealing about us.”
The beauty of Jo & Co is that yes, you can go into the store and spend £180 on a jumper, but you can also go in and spend £10 on a really beautiful book, it just depends on what suits you. “Everything I ever buy for Jo & Co is something that I would have in my own home,” Jo says. “And I think that there’s a space for that in Cornwall. Just because we’re by the beach, that doesn’t mean we can’t be glamorous and feminine at the same time.”