Iguazu: A Beeston based gift shop with an emphasis on helping people all around the world reached its 20th Birthday this summer, and to celebrate such a monumental occasion we spoke to Business Owner Neil Walton to delve into the backstory of such a uniquely charming independent store.
How does a store as Individual as Iguazu come into fruition?
“At university my dissertation was on the inequalities within the Capitalist market. I wanted to go and witness many of the issues I had learnt about first hand and chose the unlikely location of Paraguay to do this. There were maybe 100 Europeans working there at the time, and absolutely no tourists.”
Living in one the poorest neighbourhoods in the capital, the expendability of life acted as the driving force in Neil’s desire to open a Fairtrade store. Constantly connected with the creativity and talent of the local craftsmen, Neil found himself confronted with the burning desire to work out how to help the locals when back at home. “I knew I could pay them twice what they were asking for and still be able to sell it in the UK for enough profit to make it work for everyone.”
But how does this process work?
In the early years Neil sought out a multitude of fair-trade importers and started buying their products, and as Iguazu grew he had the ability to import directly from overseas, travelling out to Thailand to connect with over 60 family businesses. “These relationships allow me to work directly with the producers. And the mix of using market leading fair-trade importers combined with our own imports gives our customers the most varied range of ethical products on the market.”
With Igauzu owing so much of its success to Beeston, Neil reflects that it “Has long now felt like part of Beeston’s furniture. We have people who are still coming in 20 years after we opened. We now even have the children of these people coming in as adults to continue their support!” Neil reflects that the “Beeston customer base is incredibly loyal, and we cannot be more grateful for that. The people of Beeston have shown their support by always coming back and shopping with us. We hope this will never change, and Iguazu is certainly not going anywhere!”
Sustaining a shop since 2003 is no easy feat, but what has been learnt and what are Iquazu’s next steps?
“I’ve learnt that if you believe in something, then you can make it happen. It would have been a lot easier to just sell normal products and not worry about the producers. But then we wouldn’t be Iguazu, and I would have lost all interest!”
“I’ve learnt that we all need to work together to make something special happen, thanks to our brilliant staff we’re currently focusing on growing our online presence and ensuring we keep our supply chain healthy and full of exciting new ideas.”
Having opened the third shop up in Newark amidst the chaos of Covid, the business is resting, partaking in external events to help find those people who don’t yet know of Iguazu. Neil says his “biggest long-term aim is to create the same passion for the business in my children as I have. As a single dad, sometimes they must come to work with me, and I can see their love is growing. I can’t think of anything better than to watch them take it over from me one day and let me go off buying forever more!”
An independent furniture and gift store that fuses both care and consideration for ethical trading values across continents with a care for family and community. Iguazu has no plans to slow down, celebrating its 20 years with full force.