Nestled above Newquay harbour is a store so quietly confident, its curious surf-serenity will hook your intrigue like no other shop in Newquay.
This understated surf lifestyle boutique is MMW in Revolver; a store regenerated from retro surfboard roots into one showcasing the freshest collections of surf and fashion products from ‘on Land, at sea and everything in between’; all in the vision of its well travelled owner, Michelle Walsh.
The essences of California, New York, Japan, and Europe are all encompassed within this little haven, and you won’t find anything else like it in Cornwall.
How long have you been in Newquay for?
I’ve had this shop for 15 years, but it’s gone through various changes. Initially it was a retro surf shop called Revolver. We closed that 5 or 6 years ago and then last year I brought it back as MMW at Revolver.
How would you describe the store?
It’s a showcase of surf-lifestyle things I like I guess. We’ve got clothing, home-ware, and beautiful boards; they’re collections of things I’ve seen and wanted to bring back here. It’s bordering on a ‘curiosity shop’, some people might not know what to make of it.
Do you have a personal background in surfing?
I actually don’t surf; I‘ve tried it but get motion sickness on the board. But my husband surfs, my boys surf and then all the guys who were involved with Revolver did too.
So why adapt from the retro board store?
Revolver was just a pure surf shop, and I picked up that some people may not have come in if they weren’t surfers because they might’ve felt it was a bit of a private members club. But now anyone and everyone come in here, I aim to please and I like to set it out so that there are little stories round the shop that people can meander around. No stringent formality, just little nooks and crannies. I’m constantly changing things around.
There are definite urban influences amidst the surf styles in here, you wouldn’t seem out of place in London.
People do say that. I’ve had people come in and tell me it reminds them of a shop in Japan or that “its very Brooklyn”. They’re all lovely compliments and no, it’s not your typical Cornish shop; it’s offering something different.
So where has this ‘worldly’ feel come from? You’re selling global products as well as surf related things. Have you travelled much?
I have travelled and I suppose I’ve just bought back the things I like. It’s how I like to remind myself of them. I’ve got a lot of inspiration from California, France and Spain and I lived in New York during my early twenties so I’ve always had a bond with it. We sometimes live in London but here I’m by the Cornish coast and have also created my own little desert haven with my cactuses and stuff.
The cactuses definitely bring a bit of Californian sun into the shop…
I love Northern California; we’d always go to Santa Cruz and Big Sur as a family. I think it’s gorgeous. For a little guilty pleasure, I love LA. Anything goes there and it’s a little bit of craziness. It could be quite a soulless place I suppose for many people but if I were given the option of living somewhere other than Cornwall, it would have to be California. That’s where the kids first started surfing.
You seem to focus on supplying for the more holistic surf lifestyle
I think that’s where the heart of the surf lifestyle is; it’s more encompassing of a balance rather than simply the big corporate labels. We all know that surfers can get by on very little; they can travel around and are usually not big shoppers. So there’s a lot of things in the shop that are more like pieces that you’d keep for ages rather than quick fashion things.
You’ve sourced some pretty idiosyncratic labels, how do you find them?
I go to Paris and New York for buying. Their fashion weeks have home-ware shows too, so that’s their main connection with the shop. It’s where I find the clothes and jewellery. But everything in here is more ethnic and surf-vibe rather than representative of the cities themselves. You can’t really replicate them.
Do you have a background in the fashion industry?
I studied Fashion and Business many years ago in Manchester and then did some designing for myself. I did train as a Fitness Instructor, but when I had a family I was at home for quite a while and ran a kids boutique in North London. Then last year my youngest was going to University and I thought MMW at Revolver would be a good project to channel my energy into, instead of getting empty nest syndrome.
Do you have quite a localised customer base or a do you also get interest from people abroad?
It’s interesting where my customers come from, Alaska, Canada, California; sometimes I’m sending American goods to America because they can’t get them there. We’ve also had orders come in from Australia and New Zealand. The Internet opens everything up. The shop has an Instagram and Pinterest, so there are other ways people can see what’s going on with the store.
You use little canvas tote bags instead of plastic bags; do you try and be environmentally conscious with the things you sell?
I don’t like plastic bags; they’re horrible for the environment and I think a tote bag is also a nice little thing to give the customer. Then they can take it away and reuse it. I also think they work with the shop aesthetically. One of my favourite things is by a company in Italy called Uashamama. They make little bags from recycled paper that are really sturdy and practical. The store has a natural feel with the leather goods and the antlers I use for display, so they both fit in really well.
What are you selling at the moment that you love?
I really love this label that I’ve just got in, she’s from Toulouse – Virginie De Vinster and she makes the loveliest dresses and ponchos. Pendleton is also a favourite and all the Aztec blankets. It’s stuff that looks great whether it’s in your home or the back of a van. Kassia Meador’s wetsuits are beautiful and warm, she’s really thought about what women need in a wetsuit. They’ve got the right balance of design and functionality.
Do you have an opinion on the surf industry in a broad sense?
I don’t surf but I do like the fact that the surf vibe encompasses all age groups. You get guys in their 60’s going out every day. It’s not just for the kids. Newquay is small but lively and there’s a lot of good energy happening in this town.