From pigs in a stye to panties in style at Hattie Smalls in Bispham Green
Trying on smalls in a pig barn may seem a little extreme, but for three business-women it has the makings of a unique boutique.
It was farming that brought the women together, as Justine Lenehan looked after pigs at Cedar Farm, in Mawdesley, and while there, she cooked up an unusual business idea with farm owner Claire Martland and friend Lucy Smith.
As Claire had an empty barn in Crook Hall Farm, in nearby Bispham Green, they decided to convert it into a boutique called Hattie Smalls, selling lingerie and hats.
Justine, 48, says: “I started as a pig farmer around 17 years ago as my husband and I were passionate about knowing where our food came from.
“We farmed free range pigs, chicken, turkey and sheep and sold our produce at farmer’s markets.
“I started looking after animals at Cedar Farm and also worked in the shops.
“Claire owned a redundant pig building and she was keen to do something with it.
“I had plenty of retail experience and Lucy was passionate about hats, so we came up with selling headwear.
“We also talked about struggling to get a good fitting bra and that’s when the two ideas married together.
“We all have children and had to juggle working with childcare, but this was our time to shine. It was a bit of a risk, but so far the amount of support and positive feedback from customers has blown our minds.”
The trio set to work on converting the pig barn, maintaining the rustic and rural look, with authentic farm features, such as steel grain bins for changing rooms, exposed brick walls and a wood burner.
Justine, a mother-of-two, adds: “My husband helped convert the building, which was a roof and three sides, into a cosy boutique, and Claire’s husband found quirky farm features for us to incorporate.
“The barn is completely refurbished and we have a wood burner, solid wood floors, exposed brick walls and steel grain bins were cut down to make a changing room.
“There is a real nod to the farm, with an animal theme and it is industrial, yet very warm and welcoming. We also have parking onsite.”
Hattie Smalls has been open for almost two months and is making an impression on the locals.
Justine says: “We have an amazing range of lingerie and we are qualified bra fitters, able to offer style advice on both lingerie and hats.
“We try to cater for ladies of all sizes. We have some fantastic brands that offer full support for the bigger bust but are still really pretty.
“We have hats for hire or to buy. We have been down to London to speak to designers who have hit the big time, with hats worn at William and Kate’s wedding.
“The milliners we use have had hats worn by celebrities at the races, big weddings and for collecting awards such as an OBE.
“This business is a real team effort. The way Lucy puts hats on people and find the right style is amazing and Claire has a real eye for colour and creates eye catching displays.
“We are always happy to help. People can just walk in - no appointments necessary.”
Lucy, a 35-year-old mother-of-two, says: “I love hats but I have always struggled to find something a bit different or avant garde.
“My husband runs a hair salon in Tarleton and he says a lot of people come in saying they want a hat, but don’t know where to find them.
“I love how hats show a person’s personality. You can wear something plain, but it say something about you.
“We offer a relaxed atmosphere where people can come in and I am able to match a hat with someone’s personality.
“We have a great selection. We work with local designers to showcase what the area has to offer, as well as a top milliner from London, with some really beautiful showstoppers.
“ We can offer something a bit different and are always on the look out for something new, as trends grow.”