Meet the young entrepreneur who overcame health scare and dyslexia to join 53 Bo' Grove antiques emporium and boho bistro cafe in Harrogate

From her new clothing and gift shop Robin Gifts at 53 Bo’ Grove in Harrogate, young entrepreneur Zoe Wotherspoon tells Stephanie Smith how life’s challenges helped her find her path. Pictures by James Hardisty.

There is an oasis of bohemianism thriving within the genteel town of Harrogate. Called 53 Bo’ Grove, it is fast becoming a buzzy hotspot, combining a café-bistro with an antiques emporium packed with vintage homewares, art and fashion.

When young vintage entrepreneur Zoe Wotherspoon decided to make real her dream of opening her own clothing and gift shop, she knew that Bo’ Grove would make the ideal location, not least because she already had a stall within the emporium, Zoe's Dust Collectors, showcasing the vintage furniture and interiors pieces that she loves to uncover and upcycle.

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“Through lockdown, I thought, this is the time, and when I saw that the lodge was available, it all fell into place. I knew exactly where I wanted to be,” she says.

Robin Gifts owner Zoe Wotherspoon wears grey trousers, £24.50; poncho, £17; scarf l, £9.50; star clutch, £12, all from Robin Gifts at 53 Bo' Grove, Harrogate.

Over the summer, with the help of her partner, Ryan, and her parents, Emma and Kym, Zoe transformed the log cabin-style lodge into Robin Gifts, stocking exactly what she herself loves to wear, or give, or use to add character to her home.

Most of the clothing is from Italy, with a carefully edited selection of leisurewear, outerwear and easy, loose-fitting daywear. The jersey parka dresses and miracle stretch trousers (one size fits 8-16) are proving popular as our post-lockdown era of comfort dressing continues.

There are vegan leather handbags by Red Cuckoo and Kris Ana, plus clutches, reversible scarves, mobile phone-compatible cosy gloves, and Jewellery by Lisa Angel. There is a range of Mosney Mill kitchenalia, homewares and plantable seed cards, plus cushions and throws, non-breakable wine glasses, candles from The Yorkshire Candle Company, and more. New stock arrives every day or so, which is just as well, because word spreads quickly in Harrogate and popular lines soon sell out.

It has all been quite a challenge but then, Zoe, 26, is used to overcoming obstacles. Born and raised in Harrogate, she was diagnosed with severe dyslexia as a young child.

53 Bo' Grove antiques emporium manager Kitti Johnson wears orange roll-neck jumper, £37, and black dungarees, £27, from Robin Gifts at 53, Bo' Grove, Harrogate.

“I have always been massively supported and helped by my friends and family,” she says. “I have never felt ashamed of it.”

Zoe’s granddad, David Smith, is also dyslexic and it was probably because of this that her gran, Jen, picked up on Zoe’s difficulties while helping with her homework. But, with support from all the family, Zoe has never let dyslexia hold her back, and says that knowing her granddad became a successful businessman showed her that she could also succeed.

Now they visit her every day at the shop and remain a constant support, as are Zoe’s dad, Kym, who works in the catering industry, and her mum, Emma, who retired from insurance to help Zoe with Robin Gifts. Zoe’s younger sister, Amy, also pitches in when home from studying physiotherapy at Keele University.

Dyslexia was not Zoe’s only setback, however. When she was 19, she found a lump on her ankle. It proved to be a benign tumour but resulted in months of hospital treatment and physiotherapy. However, it also led her to discover a whole new world.

53 Bo' Grove owner Kyrensa Bentley wears mustard star jumper, £26, dark grey loungewear trousers, £29, both from Robin Gifts; bag from Lou-B-Lou, all at 53 Bo' Grove, Harrogate

“While I was recovering, my gran and gramps would take me out places and I found a love for antiques and vintage. Sometimes they need a bit of love and care, and I had the time to do that.

“Then, my mum and dad, gran and gramps and sister all said, “You have found a passion in restoring old things - why don’t you start your own little business?”

So Zoe’s Dust Collectors was born, and she continues to run her unit at 53 Bo’ Grove, again selling what she loves, from upcycled pine furniture to industrial chic and retro interiors pieces.

Fellow antiques and vintage lover Kyrensa Bentley is the owner of 53 Bo’ Grove, which she opened in September, 2019, in a former tile showroom on Grove Road, creating an Aladdin's cave of treasures over two floors, in units rented and stocked by independent sellers.

Yorkshire C'est La Vie @civ_ceremonies celebrant Roxanna Sandford-Malik wears mustard wrap dress, £32, from Robin Gifts, at 53 Bo' Grove.

On-site is also a cosy bistro-café selling homemade cakes and bakes, plus breakfast, brunch and lunch. With indoor and outdoor tables in and among the plants, garden ornaments and salvage also on sale, it has become a vibrant hub and meeting place for locals and visitors, open seven days a week. There is a sister Bo’ Grove shop on Oxford Street in Harrogate town centre.

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For Zoe and Emma, who runs the shop when Zoe is out re-stocking Zoe’s Dust Collectors, 53 Bo Grove has become home from home. “She is amazing, I couldn’t do it without her,” says Zoe of her mum, adding: “I get excited coming to work on a morning.”

As for the name of the gift shop, the robin has been Zoe’s lucky mascot since the death of her grandfather, Hugh Wotherspoon, when she was a teenager. “I remember going back to Scotland about a year after his passing, and I sat on a bench thinking about him, in Edinburgh, in the Princes Street Gardens, and a robin came and sat right here with me,” she says.

“Now, if any big decisions are coming in life, or if there is something I am not sure about, a robin will come and support me, so I am 100 per cent sure that the robin is my granddad.”

*Robin Gifts is at 53 Bo’ Grove, Grove Road, Harrogate. Instagram: @robin_gifts_ltd Facebook: @robin-gifts-ltd

Robin Gifts owner Zoe Wotherspoon wears navy rollneck jumper, £37; leopard dungarees, £27; crossbody bag, £39, all from Robin Gifts at 53 Bo' Grove, Harrogate.

* 53 Bo’ Grove is at www.53bogrove.co.uk, Instagram: @53bogrove Facebook: 53 Bo Grove Antiques. Look out for the Christmas weekends. Also, Tennants in Leyburn has a designer fashion auction coming up and there will be a Smart Works designer bargain fashion sale in Leeds next week.

53 Bo' Grove antiques emporium manager Kitti Johnson wears print smock dress, £34, from Robin Gifts at 53 Bo' Grove, Harrogate.
Celebrant Roxanna Sandford-Malik wears long pink cardigan, £24, from Robin Gifts; the bags are from Lou-B-Lou, all at 53 Bo' Grove, Harrogate.
Kitti, Zoe, Kyrensa and Roxanna.