With a shop front that’s painted a vibrant blue and signage that promises a secret garden, Suzie K is a shop that definitely stands out on Chester’s Bridge Street. If you haven’t yet been inside you may have glanced in the display window and walked on, assuming it just wasn’t your ‘thing’. But while Suzie K is definitely a quirky, alternative gift shop, it’s also much, much more, and the woman behind the name is reaching out for you to be brave, walk in, and absorb the warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Suzie K is Suzie Kincla, the founder, manager and owner of a shop that is not only a retail premises but also a healing retreat. She is a healer who has trained in Shamanic healing, Reiki, Seichim and crystal therapy and offers Tarot and oracle card readings in a private section of the shop as part of her desire to help guide and direct people. When you read the chalkboard at the entrance to the street-level shop you’ll find there are crystal evenings, Reiki treatments and spiritual development classes on offer, too.
Suzie understands that some people may think twice about going into such an ‘alternative’ shop. “We try to make sure our window includes something that’s a bit more ‘normal’ so they can be drawn by that,” she says, adding: “I think what I would say to them is, be brave, take a big breath, step in and see the welcome that you’ll get in here.”
It’s a welcome that’s extended to everyone, even those who are just curious.
“You never know who’s stepping through your door and irrespective of whether they purchase that day or not, it doesn’t matter,” says Suzie. “Every single member of the public who walks through my door should be treated the same way because they may not see something for them today, but they may go away and talk about us.”
Suzie K occupies three floors of the Dutch Houses building on Bridge Street and you need to look up from the street level and step up on the row level to appreciate the spaces. There are steps up to the upper rooms and there’s a ramp on Pierpont Lane for access to those who need it. There really is a secret garden, too: a tranquil healing garden, with plants, paintings and spiritual sculptures, tucked away at the back of the building.
Along with her co-manager husband, Robbie, Suzie took over the upper floors in 2019, adding the street level shop just a year ago. Moving into Chester was an adventure many years in the making. Suzie’s background is in management consultancy, though she has always been creative and taught hair and beauty in college. She lost two close relatives in the space of a few years then nursed her dad through dementia for more than five years, giving up her day job in the process. It was while she was involved with dementia groups that she began to crochet… then decided to make it her business to be more creative, first selling her crochet items from a 6ft craft table at a school fair before expanding into fairs and festivals.
Robbie and Suzie travelled to fairs all over the north west and as part of the biker community they spread even further to biker rallies and folk festivals. The trader community was beautiful, she says, and she misses it still.
They were travelling further south, attending the bigger fairy and pagan festivals, with bigger vans and trailers, and started to make their name on the festival circuit. They had a market shop at Suzie’s home town of Ellesmere Port for years before they were approached by the previous owners of the shop at Dutch Houses who were moving on, and wanted to know if Suzie was interested in buying the business.
“We were approached, we had a look at it and we could see the potential. We decided to go for the business,” she says. They took it over in 2019 . They opened the top two floors, selling clothing, ornaments and a little crystal. “I knew what I wanted to do. I’d always worked with crystal, even as a child, and so I trained as a crystal healer and a Reiki master. I did shamanic work – I was being called to it. Even now I’m still training.”
It was a move she was more than happy to make, and she believes that she and her team of staff are offering their customers in Chester a service that’s very much needed at a time of great stress and anxiety.
“A lot of people say they feel out of balance, or something is going on in their life that’s traumatic. Or they don’t know how to cope – there’s a lot of stress and anxiety at the moment,” she says. “This shop is a support mechanism for some of my customers and people are drawn to the place, because of the well-being and healing we offer,” she adds.
“It’s a place where they can offload, a place where they recharge, collect themselves and share in a safe environment. It’s healing. It’s what they need and it’s what we want for them.
“Sometimes the job isn’t about the retail, it’s about the support – and support and community are massive for me.”
For those looking to boost their well-being Suzie offers customers mix-and-match treatments that are best suited to their needs. So while they may think they need Reiki, Suzie uses her intuition and gives her customers exactly what they need. They receive a free mini-consultation and are then booked in.
“I stopped advertising as three separate treatments and advertise it as a well-being treatment,” she explains. “It’s customised to suit the individual at that time of their life because until I have someone lying on the couch I don’t know what they’re going to need – and they don’t necessarily know what they’re going to need. We explain it could be any of the skills, but it will be targeted for them. It’s very different.”
They support local businesses by selling their books, clothing and cakes. They’ve maintained the existing tea bar and offer light refreshments for their customers who can sit in one of the three available spaces: the (secret) healing garden, out on the Rows or in a spiritual room under a beautiful, Grade I-listed ceiling.
As well as a range of tea and coffee, they offer a mix of dairy, vegan and gluten-free cakes with their vegan options supplied by Nicoletta from Simply Vegan Cakes. Her vegan Biscoff cheesecake and spinach cake with vegan mascarpone and fruit often sell-out, says Suzie.
And if you love the spiritual side of life, like what you see in the shop and want more on a regular basis, you can sign up for subscription boxes filled with exclusive Suzie K items. The boxes are sent out monthly and contain a mix of items that could include jewellery, candles, teas, crystals and incense as well as exclusive spells and more. They can also be bought as a one-off and make a great present.
“We’ve also just opened our personal shopper for tourists and for the regulars who won’t come out still. We reach out and try and help them,” says Suzie.
Her reputation has now grown to a level where she’s been noticed by the media and she has recently been featured in three magazines: House of Coco, Cheshire Life and the spiritual magazine Soul & Spirit, where Suzie now sits on the guru board. “It’s recognition not just for me, but for my staff, because without my staff being as good as they are, this business doesn’t do what it does,” she says.
So next time you’re passing, don’t pass by: walk right in, take your time browsing and engage with the friendly, knowledgeable staff. There’s a lot to see, a lot to absorb, and who knows, you may even sense the friendly spirit of a Dutch seaman who Suzie believes is in the building to guard his ‘treasure’ – the ornate Grade I listed ceilings.
“Upstairs we have a lot of spiritual activity. This building is renowned. We’re written in the Chester ghost story books and we’re on the ghost tour. Things move and we see orbs on the cameras,” she says.
Seems like there’ll always be something going on at Suzie K to surprise you…
- Suzie K is at Dutch Houses, 22 Bridge Street Row West, Chester CH1 1NN
- Visit www.suziek.co.uk for full details on treatments and opening times