Welcome to our Blog series showcasing some of the best of the local shops, businesses and talent in and around Dulwich.
This month the Dulwich Daily caught up with Dan Rigby, one half of Rigby & Mac. Whether you’re a long-time resident, or a newbie to Dulwich, you will no doubt have come across one of Rigby & Mac’s three gorgeous shops, the Dulwich Trader, Tomlinsons and ED. We spoke to Dan to find out about the history of the shops, their plans for the future, and of course something about the local area too…
Can you tell us a little about the history behind the 3 Dulwich shops, and how they evolved to become one ‘brand’ under Rigby & Mac?
It’s very much a family business, my mum opened the Dulwich Trader in 1987, so its about 26/27 years old now. Next came Tomlinsons in the village, and then ED opened in East Dulwich in 1999. My wife then took over the business in 2009, and then 5 years later, I came onboard,. So my wife is Katharine Maclaverty and I’m Dan Rigby — hence Rigby & Mac — and we introduced the new name to launch the online business, because if you’re outside the context of Dulwich, Dulwich Trader doesn’t really mean anything to you, it sounds like it might sell nuts and bolts if you don’t actually know the store!! So we created an umbrella brand to support our online store, and even though there is a cross over of stock, each shop still very much retains its own individual character and offering to reflect their local demographic.
What would you say is the style of Rigby & Mac overall, and how does that break down across the three shops?
What we’ve always said is that we are trying to bring the West-end experience to a local location. I would say that the style of Tomlinson in the village is Feminine Vintage, Ed is Quirky and Eclectic, and the Dulwich Trader sort of transcends both, so we call it Modern Country. That covers what is different about the shops, although it doesn’t really tell the whole story. We employ about 40 people across all the shops and behind the scenes, so all of those personalities add something to the shops too.
Having grown up in Dulwich, you must have seen a lot of changes to the local area, what have been the biggest notable changes for you?
The rise of East Dulwich and Lordship Lane in particular over the last 15 years has transformed so much, and is almost unrecognisable as what it once was. The character of the local businesses has changed — some good some bad. I don’t bemoan change in London, because that’s what cities do, things change and we all have to keep up with that change.
And it hasn’t just been East Dulwich, the surrounding areas too from Crystal Palace to Herne Hill and even West Norwood is developing a coolness that it certainly didn’t used to have. I think Dulwich is really reflective of what’s gone on in London, I mean look at Peckham…. Its now the place to be, we weren’t saying that 20 years ago.
Rigby & Mac is very much part of the communities in Dulwich, and very familiar to those of us that live and work here. What plans do you have for the future?
I think the strength of our shops and of our offering is not just our stylish edit of product but it’s also the environment and the experience. You can’t just open your shop doors and expect people to walk through them, so we hope that we create — not a community hub, as that sounds like a community centre — but a community asset with personality. We want people to come to the shops not just to pick up a card or a dress (although we love it when they do!), but also that they come because they feel it is part of their community — which is what shops to us should be.
We can’t compete with the big online shops or high street retailers, so we have to work to our strengths which is being part of the community — like for Mother’s or Father’s Day, when local children can share their pictures to display in our windows.
We’re also involved in the Love West Dulwich project, which came out of an alliance formed with businesses and residents in the area to really put West Dulwich on the map. There is an annual fair which is growing each year, and we’ve just had a hugely successful lamppost banner scheme, where we ran a competition with local schools and artists, and the winners were picked by a panel which included Ingrid Beazley — who sadly recently passed — from the Dulwich Picture Gallery. 66 Banners have now gone up to try to give the area a sense of cohesion and a community identity to graphically mark it.
We’re also now working with a small action group of businesses, residents, market traders and other organization to run a similar scheme in East Dulwich. We’re very much in early development stages at the moment, but considering ideas of the lamppost banners and various enhancements around the Northcross Road market area. As the market is really at the heart of the community, we are looking at ideas that could include community outreach projects in conjunction with some local charity groups.
You have a rare day off… how would you spend 24 hours in Dulwich?
Ha! I never get a day off! I have 2 young kids..!
Well it will certainly involve a lot of eating…! I do like the Dulwich Café — which isn’t really ‘new’ Dulwich — but that’s where I’d head for breakfast. Then a cruise around the market on Northcross Road obviously. As I grew up in the area, I still have a lot of my old school friends round here, and as we’re all dad’s now, I’d probably head up to Dulwich Woods with a few of them. We all camped up there recently, it’s a great spot to get away from it all. And no day in Dulwich would be complete for me without dinner at Franklins.
Thanks Dan. You can find out more about Rigby & Mac online here.