Have you seen what’s at No 1 Arbury Road and noticed the picturesque store front and the flowers and plants that spill onto the pavement? This is the latest independent hardware store to set up in Cambridge, called simply Cam Home and Garden.
Entering Cam Home and Garden takes you over a comforting step down memory lane; it offers the very best of old-fashioned customer service and a fantastic selection of items found in a local hardware shop reminiscent of shops from yesteryear. Robin Standring, the manager, greets me wearing a t-shirt with four candles on.
Robin together with his assistant Steve Winn bring over 100 years of retail experience. Steve, retired after long-service at Cutlacks on Mill Road but was tempted back into part-time work by Robin. They now enjoy serving and getting to know their customers in West Chesterton and providing welcome advice as, between them, there is little they don’t know about gardening, home renovation and beer and wine-making. But, Robin defaults to Steve – who he refers to as Cambridge aristocracy – and tells his customers; “If you want to know anything about anything, from mops to hops, ask Steve.”
Looking around the shop there’s a wonderful and eclectic mix of beautiful modern, vintage and practical everyday items. Its arrangement lends itself to browsing. Robin says: “We’re really proud to be described as a useful shop in Cambridge. Everything has a use but also looks nice and we stock a range that suits all budgets. We’re perfectly suited for anyone who want to grow their own, make their own as well as get all the essential hardware stuff.”
The shop is bedecked in sentimental decoration, charming knick knacks (not for sale) from Robin’s childhood, as well as interesting locally sourced items such as Cambridge hardwood charcoal and hazel poles from Hardwick woods. The packed shelves stock Che Guevara mugs next to Baby Bio bottles, gorgeous colourful enamel espresso cups and a wide selection of seeds, with useful labels telling you, for example, which ones are great for bees.
Robin has an eye for details and design and so the homely store front reflects the seasonal produce alongside the perennial best sellers. It is no surprise that the shop has been called an Aladdin’s Cave or like stepping into the Tardis. Steve explains that they change seasonally, and rotate stock to reflect this (such as swapping jam-making for chutney-making as the season demands) all the while ensuring that everything remains practical. And in line with their old-fashioned philosophy, their children’s toys only promote outdoor play – no batteries, no screens – just traditional games.
The front of the shop stocks their home and garden range, while the home brew equipment – wine, beer and cider – is found at the back. Craft beers are a big driver in the home brew market today and such is their position as experts in this field they have a home brew club which runs on the 1st Sunday of every month and takes place at Thirsty. It’s great fun, very informal and open to all levels of experience because people learn from each other. The Jamaican food van serves between 4-6pm. What better way to get an introduction to beer-making?
Proudly Robin tells me that the only other place you can get most of the stuff he sells is on the internet, but without the personal. On top of this he goes out of his way to get stuff that you wouldn’t find on the internet which all helps to maintain his loyal and growing customer base.
As with everything about Cam Home and Garden, they want satisfied customers who always get what they come for – from four candles to fork handles – and everything is built from that.
Find out more about Cam Home and Garden here