For homeware gifts that you can't buy elsewhere, this family-run boutique is a smart destination for last-minute shopping.
Dubai shop Harvest Home strives to be different
While the giant department stores across town are advertising their Christmas collections with glitzy, big-production window displays, over in one of Jumeirah's more low-key malls, charm and a lovingly curated collection of homeware, gifts and decorations are pulling in the shoppers.
Quietly thriving in a corner of the Jumeirah Centre at the top of Jumeirah Beach Road, Harvest Home is a boutique where you discover something new and beautiful on every visit - a deliberate intention of the shop's owners, the mother and daughter Laurie Hewson and Zahra Hewson-Ventura. Their continual efforts to keep stock fresh, new and individual means that their shop has become the go-to destination for the original and alternative.
"We only take on a brand if it is not already available on the market here," Zahra explains. "If anyone else already stocks it, we are not interested." As such, this is the only place in the city where you can find cult collectable porcelain and glassware by Ritzenhoff, and Emma Bridgewater's sought-after pottery - also the shop's biggest draws.
"In 2012 we'll also be taking on some smaller, lesser known brands, which we are really excited about," Zahra adds. She declines to reveal what they are exactly, should any other shops steal their ideas ("It's happened before," she says).
Such efforts have helped to maintain a solid customer base. Just in this month is the latest collection by the acclaimed British studio Prey, which makes handmade scented soaps, textiles, stationary and storage accessories. It's already a big hit.
Many of Harvest Home's customers have been regulars since the earliest days of the business, returning time and again to a reliable source of nice things. Other customers are just passers-by, drawn in by the uniqueness of the window displays, which the shop has become locally renowned for.
Zahra and Laurie also run the shop two doors down: ZaZeeZou, the children's clothes, toys and gift shop that opened four years ago. Again, they specialise in selling smaller, independent brands. Emma Bridgewater's children's range is a big seller, along with the funky London label No Added Sugar and Kidorable. Other ranges include Busy Peas, a new baby clothes line that encourages children to eat their vegetables, Flower Fairies, Aden + Anais and Rock Abye Baby (a rock'n'roll inspired range of clothes that come packaged in a record sleeve cover) and beautiful traditional wooden toys by Moulin Roty.
The reputation of both shops has spread mainly via word of mouth, and while business continues to grow, their profile is still surprisingly low-key. "Sometimes it feels like we are a badly kept secret," smiles Zahra.
Now in its 25th year of business, the shop was one of the first - if not the first - places in Dubai where you could buy homeware from outside the UAE. In the early 1980s, before the big stores had arrived, sourcing stylish, good-quality tableware was almost an impossibility. Frustrated by this, Laurie Hewson and her best friend Terry Dean (who passed away in 2000) began importing plates from their native Wales, then selling them on to friends and friends of friends. Word spread, demand grew and the pair opened a shop, buying in products from wider, international sources.
Zahra, who grew up with the business, joined her mother in running the shop "as soon as she was old enough not to break anything", Laurie says. Today, she is preparing for the annual onslaught of pre-Christmas trade, a measure of how far the business has come. Last year, they had to stay open until midnight, and contrary to Zahra's expectations, this year looks as if it will be just as successful.
"We've been pleasantly surprised. People seem to be spending more again," she says. "So far all the decorations have been very popular. Our three-foot-tall wooden nutcrackers in sequinned jackets sold out in days, the twig reindeer the size of Great Danes have practically walked out of the shop and our musical snow globes always sell out."
She picks her way through overflowing baskets and boxes to sift through a delivery of Christmas decorations, dolls and ornaments by Gisela Graham. With every shelf and surface already crammed with products, it's hard to see where they'll fit. But these will be another big seller. "They won't be around for long," says Zahra, "most of this will be sold within the week."
The shop's close relationship with designers and brands means they can also commission bespoke or personalised items and limited-edition items just for UAE customers. Right now, in fact, you can get a limited-edition "I Love Dubai" tree bauble. You'll have to hurry, though - these are being cleared from the shelves by the basketful.
Harvest Home, Jumeirah Centre, Beach Road, Dubai, 04 342 0225