Inside Sunderland craft and coffee shop FruFru & Friends that's proved a hit after moving to larger premises

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It soon outgrew its original site.

From handmade wooden signs and bath bombs to Sunderland-themed gifts and Italian clothes, FruFru & Friends is a real Aladdin’s Cave of retail.

Jean Ross, owner of Fru Fru & FriendsJean Ross, owner of Fru Fru & Friends
Jean Ross, owner of Fru Fru & Friends | Sunderland Echo

Businesswoman Jean Ross opened her first stand alone shop in Grangetown in June 2022, selling her own creations as well as those by dozens of other crafters.

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Although it can be a difficult time for retail, the personal service offered by the store, as well as its unique stock, took off and last year FruFru & Friends moved into the neighbouring former gym site in Ryhope Road.

At four times the size of the original site, it’s allowed Jean to host even more traders, with 34 different brands now stocked in store as well as the opening of Milo’s Place coffee shop, selling a range of panini, jacket potatoes, soups, sandwiches, cakes and more, named after Jean and husband Ian’s late Labrador.

The site now has a coffee shopThe site now has a coffee shop
The site now has a coffee shop | Sunderland Echo

It’s a real treasure trove of crafts, toiletries, sweet treats, clothes, accessories, homewares and dog treats at the pet-friendly site.

Expanding the store also means the craft area is now larger for people to attend art and meet the maker events.

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Some of the toiletries at the storeSome of the toiletries at the store
Some of the toiletries at the store | Sunderland Echo

This week marks a year since Jean moved into the larger site and two years since she opened her first store and to mark the event there’s a host of discounts and raffles available, which will raise funds for pet charities.

Jean said: “As well as being a place where people can come for all manner of crafts, we really feel part of the community here. We’re one of the only coffee shops around and it’s proved really popular - we’ve had so much support.

“There’s a great range of independent shops round here and people are saying this is exactly what Grangetown needs. We have something for everybody.”

Some of the crafts on offerSome of the crafts on offer
Some of the crafts on offer | Sunderland Echo

She added: “Because there’s so much in the store, we get people travelling from all over: from Houghton, Ryhope and across the water. There’s free parking and we have plenty of space for wheelchairs, which people like.

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“But we still get some local people who don’t realise we’re even here.”

Speaking about the name, she said: “It’s called FruFru & Friends because I stock arts and crafts from friends, but also because we class our customers as friends. Even if people don’t buy anything, we encourage them to pop in and just have a look around.”

The larger store also has a clothing sectionThe larger store also has a clothing section
The larger store also has a clothing section | Sunderland Echo

Jean set up her online FruFru business in 2015, selling her homemade bathbombs, soaps and body butters online, as well as at craft markets.

Opening her own shop was a gamble, but it’s one she says has paid off with strong Christmas trade, as well as a very steady stream of customers throughout the year.

*Fru Fru & Friends is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

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