Owned by young couple, and designers, Julija Nač and Matej Gruden, the store features carefully selected products by designers from Slovenia and Europe. We caught up with Julija to hear how the couple went from studying to opening a store, how they source their design-led wares and how GUD Shop has become a must for those visiting the Slovenian capital…
When and why did you decide to open GUD Shop?
It has been seven years since we opened the GUD Shop in the centre of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. At that time we were just finishing our studies, we had a lot of ideas and enthusiasm, and above all we wanted to create a common business path, because we complemented each other not only privately, but also in project planning. We both enjoyed art and home design.
At the beginning, we imagined that our business place would be divided into floors. The GUD Shop store would be located on the ground floor, where products by local designers would be presented, and workshops would be held on the first floor, where the GUD WORK would be located. Unfortunately, after the first year, we moved to another location, which was no longer divided into floors, so we only kept the store. But we still design our own products, we love creating new things.
Although the original plan has changed over the years, we have enjoyed our work immensely and would not change anything.
What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?
We were both students, I studied History of Art and Matej studied Architecture. However, we worked a lot during our studies. I also worked in a shop for five years, so I knew the job well. Matej designed a lot, which later benefited him when he designed the furniture in the store, the visual brand identity and created our web shop. We did everything ourselves. I have always loved taking photos, so I have been taking care of social media. The skills definitely helped us, but I still think you need courage to take such a step. A lot of people told us we were too young for such a project, but we worked days and nights to make our dreams come true.
How did you decide on the name?
Matej designed websites together with his friend Blaž Učakar during his student years. At that time, they took their name from their surname initials: Gruden Učakar Design, or GUD for short. We also thought the name was great for the store, so we kept the name with Blaž’s permission. We liked GUD because it’s a simple, short name that everyone can easily remember, and most of all, it is associated with the English word “good”.
How would you describe the interior style of the store?
Matej and I designed all the furniture and we also renovated the space, which we are really proud of. Wood predominates as we both adore it and the style could be described as Scandinavian minimalism – a play of wood and iron construction. Most shelves are modular and the furniture can be adapted to the products we have in the store.
Tell us about the range of products you stock…
We primarily want to offer products by Slovenian designers. All local products are specially marked on the shelves and thus more visible. We are proud that customers can find products from as many as thirty Slovenian designers on our shelves.
Of course, we also have designers from other European countries – we choose them according to the principle of what we like and when they fascinate us with their story.
In our shop, you can find gifts for yourself and your loved ones. We also have a large selection of gifts for babies, but most products are for the home and its decor – home office products, rugs, vases and cups.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like?
We’re both big coffee lovers, so every morning we first have a cup of coffee and talk about our daily tasks. Then we reply to e-mails, check deliveries, and at 10am we open the doors of our store. We both love working in the store, because contact with customers is very important to us, so many mornings you will find us behind the register. Most of the day, we deal with ordering products, searching for new designers, redecorating the shop or the shop window.
We also manage the web shop, take care of its appearance and add new products to the website. In the afternoons, we often take photos of products for social media and organise digital marketing campaigns.
How do you choose your wares/ stockists?
We are often convinced not only by a product itself, but also by the vision of a designer or company. Quite a few brands on our shelves are environmentally aware. With their work, they want to leave the smallest carbon footprint on earth, and many of them also donate to environmental associations.
Do you create anything in-house?
Yes, under the name GUD work Matej and I create our own planners, notebooks, enamel cups, candles, art prints, etc.
Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?
Our store is located on the busiest tourist street, so our bestsellers are definitely products with the image of Ljubljana. I think they are so popular because their design is beautiful and minimal and they are not typical souvenirs.
Many of our customers come regularly for the gifts for their loved ones. We sell a really versatile range of products, from cups to local gins, from baby bibs to water bottles.
What items are your personal can’t-live-without?
Matej and I have been designing our planners for the last six years so I could say that our planner is an item without which I would be completely lost.
What do you enjoy most about running GUD?
Freedom and being your own boss. It is not always easy to push yourself but if you’re working with your heart, it’s not that difficult. It’s great to be surrounded by beautiful things every day and an even greater joy is to open packages when new products arrive. I always feel like a little girl on Christmas morning when I open them.
Also we have met so many wonderful and creative people. We have become close friends with many designers and we help each other on our business journey.
What has been your career highlight so far?
We are very proud to have been noticed by major design magazines, who have written about us. Another special feeling is getting your hands on the product you designed for the first time. But for me the biggest achievement is when customers come to me and say that the GUD Shop is the most beautiful store they have ever been to. We hear this many times a day, but it’s still the best compliment for our work.
Many customers tell us that they came to Slovenia only because of the GUD Shop, even though they were not planning to visit our country at all. And it’s even nicer to hear them when they tell us how much they loved our city and our beautiful country.
What is the neighbourhood like around the store?
The street where we have the store has become a real concept store street in the last few years, full of independent boutique shops – a tourist attraction on its own. The street is also full of restaurants, cafes, and all the owners are locals. We get along well with the neighbours, we help each other and we became even closer during the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you haven’t visited Ljubljana yet, you definitely should. Ljubljana is a small charming town with beautiful architecture, streets full of people and with the most beautiful nature. Almost every tourist says that we are a hidden gem and that we should be proud of our country, which we certainly are.
Do you have any advice for those thinking about opening their own stores?
My advice? Just do it. Too often, people see more problems in life than solutions. I also had many questions and worries before the opening and I am very grateful for Matej because he always looks at life positively. However, I believe that with a good team, everything is easier, so choose who you will work with carefully. Matej and I work very well together and complement each other perfectly, so all the problems that come up don’t seem that big.