A GIFT shop and café in Carlisle, marking its 20th anniversary, attributes its business longevity to prioritising staff welfare, staying abreast of market trends, and maintaining customer-friendly pricing.

Founded by Tanya Haandrikman and her daughter Sonya Hanndrikman Sibbald, Celebrations, situated in a historic Grade-II listed building, emphasises a familial atmosphere for both customers and staff.

They've traded from there for two decades this year, having traded for nine years at a neighbouring unit, with some staff carrying over.

"We hire good people who care about people. It’s not about staff with loads of skills; we get nice people because skills can be taught,” Tanya said, who also prides her business on its dedicated workers like Heather Hodgson, a manager, who started work there 29 years ago at 16, and other long-serving team members referred to as 'celebs.'

Other celebs include Karen Mackie who is celebrating 20 years of work, and both Debbie Graham and Joan Barnes have 15 years of service and Tracey Miller has 12 years.

Andrea Robb and Ivika Ogunsanya have 10 years of service, Sharon Harrison has eight years, Sophie Watson has seven years and both Lindsay Griffiths and Hannah Mingins have six years.

Sonya emphasised the hard work behind the scenes, mentioning ‘constant’ deliveries and the diligent efforts of the cafe staff, there being no moment to sit back while on shift.

In Cumbria: Tanya (left) and SonyaTanya (left) and Sonya (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

Despite the challenges faced over two decades, including economic, political, and environmental hurdles like floods and the recent impact of Covid, Celebrations maintains a focus on 'accessible pricing and excellent customer service', which Sonya said ensures repeat custom.

Sonya noted the challenges of the high street and changing retail expectations, citing the influence of online services and rising business rates have had an impact, but thanks to the café, the store maintains a strong status.

Staying on top of consumer trends which change by the minute is also crucial.

Heather Hodgson, who joined after sixth form, expressed her loyalty to the business.

"It’s a family; I just love my job," she said. “It’s just really interesting, and from a kid, if I worked anywhere, it would be a card shop."

One of the biggest changes in her 29 years is the increased competitiveness but staying on trend with gifts and cards has helped them maintain a lead.

In Cumbria: Lindsay Griffiths (left) and Heather HodgsonLindsay Griffiths (left) and Heather Hodgson (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

Lindsay Griffiths, the cafe supervisor, attributes their success to the high quality of homemade food: "Every day they make four different types of scones, tray bakes, homemade lasagne and pies, chips, everything is homemade.

“There aren’t that many places out and about to get homecooked food these days, and customers respect that."

As businesses coming and going in the blink of an eye is something of a new norm these days, perhaps other hopefuls could look to Celebrations and follow their lead.

The combination of familial values, dedication to staff and customers, and a commitment to quality has positioned Celebrations as a resilient and thriving business, and they’re ready to mark 20 more to come.