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April 3, 2023 —

Shopkeeper Spotlight: A Broader Picture

Hannah Mackay, co-owner of A Broader Picture on Portstewart's coast, shares how she and her partner, Steven, took over her family's business, creating a beautiful store famed for its laid-back living, and stunning sea view...
Owner Hannah inside Portstewart lifestyle store A Broader Picture
Wicker lampshades inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture
Shelley Welti
91 Magazine online content editor,

Photography

Jon Forson
Photographer,
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Hi Hannah, when did A Broader Picture open?  

My parents (Brian and Siobhan Farthing) started A Broader Picture as a picture framing business from their garden shed about 25 years ago. At the time, my dad was a teacher and my mum was at home bringing up my brother and I. I asked my mum why she decided to open the shop and she said she just wanted to sell nice things – as simple as that!  She started to sell cards and a few pieces from local makers and the business progressed from there.

I’ve been in and out of the shop for as long as I can remember, but came on board officially about 8 or 9 years ago. My husband, Steven, joined a year or two later. It was never a plan that we would carry on the family business or anything, it was just a good fit, and we both really enjoy it, for the most part!

Owner Hannah inside Portstewart lifestyle store A Broader Picture

Where did the name come from?

Originally, the name was chosen to show that the shop wasn’t solely a picture framing business. I suppose it is a bit random, as we don’t do picture framing at all now (and haven’t done for many years) but it’s been with us from the beginning and we’re all pretty fond of it.

In some ways, it actually describes the shop quite well, in that we don’t have a very specific style. It definitely has its own look and feel – but I’ve never felt that I couldn’t stock something I liked because it would look out of place.

What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?

I studied Mandarin and French at uni and Stevie studied building surveying. Not so relevant really and at times I think how helpful it would have been to have a background in marketing or something similar. I’ve grown up alongside the every day running of the shop though which makes a big difference – Stevie was thrown in at the deep end!

Wicker lampshades inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

Terracotta clay pots inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

How would you describe the interior style of the store?

Tough question and one I always struggle to answer! The building itself isn’t wildly exciting – an old building with high ceilings and wooden floorboards would be an absolute dream – but we’re completely spoilt with our view. Our location definitely influences our style and the phrase we’ve settled on to describe it is ‘laid back living’. I’m drawn to products which sit well with, and embrace, the relaxed, slower pace which seems to come naturally with being by the coast.

Tell us about the range of products you stock… 

The shop is predominantly a homeware store with furniture, textiles, lighting and home accessories. We also have seasonal collections, stationery and well-being products. Although the range of products is diverse, everything we sell in the shop has been so carefully chosen. I could spend as much time debating whether or not to order a particular card as I would picking the fabric for a sofa.

Floral print, cushions and interiors Wooden furniture and interiors inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

Inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

What does a ‘normal’ day look like?

Currently, a bit mad!  Stevie and I have 3 kids ( 7, 4 and 6 months) so the work/life balance is a constant juggle. I’m back in the shop a bit more now, having had our little boy last October ,and at the minute he comes to work with me.  We open at 10am so once the school run is done we head over to the shop and the day usually starts with a coffee.

We try to designate roles in the shop, but we’re a small team, so inevitably everyone ends up wearing a lot of different hats. On any given day you could be sourcing, ordering, unpacking, merchandising, cleaning…the list goes on. Looking after our customers is the priority, so we always manage to find time for a chat amongst the business of shop life.

I would normally spend a bit of time on the laptop in the evenings once the kids are in bed, sourcing, ordering and catching up on admin.  There are definitely times when you feel like another 24 hours in the day wouldn’t go amiss!

How do you choose your wares/ stockists?

For me, the shop is a bit like another home but on a much larger scale – I try to fill it with things that bring me joy and that I could happily live with for a long time. I couldn’t buy something I didn’t like just because it would sell well. While we do still attend trade shows, a lot of our sourcing is done online now. It’s a great way to find smaller businesses or makers who wouldn’t necessarily exhibit at the shows.

Wooden furniture and interiors inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

Wooden furniture and interiors inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

Do you make anything in-house?

Not yet, but we’ve said for a long time we would love to try and have a range of products specific to A Broader Picture. Our customers always comment on the lovely scent when you come into the shop so we would love to pair up with a local maker to try and recreate this in an A Broader Picture candle or something like that.

Which items are your bestsellers? 

Greetings cards – which is so lovely. They have been a consistently good seller since the shop opened and it’s encouraging and reassuring that even amidst all the tech and the handiness of email and text people still make the effort to send a card. Receiving a really nice card from someone you care about is a simple pleasure and a great way to lift your spirits. I think little things like that are important, so I hope the cards will be selling away for another 25 years!

Owner Hannah with independent beauty and homeware inside Portstewart lifestyle store A Broader Picture

The view of the sea from inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

What items are your personal can’t-live-withouts?

Our Bergs terracotta pots – I adore them. I really love having them in the shop. They are unfussy, beautiful and timeless – and the plants seem very happy in them too!

What do you enjoy most about running the store?

It’s funny but I have a sort of a love/hate relationship with the change over in the seasons. It’s so exciting to see all the new stock arriving, particularly for Spring/Summer as the shop is alway so depleted after Christmas, but it also means the whole shop gets an overhaul which is a major undertaking. Half way through, when it’s 1am and I am still trying to sort out the displays and the shop is in complete chaos, I could cry. But then you get over the hill and the displays come together, you open up the next morning and it’s such a lovely feeling seeing our customers enjoying and appreciating the effort that’s been put in.

Owner Hannah with independent beauty and homeware inside Portstewart lifestyle store A Broader Picture

Terracotta clay pots inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

What has been your career highlight so far?

Just recently we were featured in The Shopkeepers list of the best shops in Ireland. I’ve followed The Shopkeepers for a long time so was really delighted to be included alongside some very beautiful Irish shops.

What is the neighbourhood like around the store?

I can only think of one shop on The Promenade that isn’t an independent! We have a great mix of businesses around us, from more traditional stores which have been there for generations, to newly established hipster cafes and everything in between. The area in general is much busier in the summer months, but we’re very lucky to have the support of our local customers all year round. Having that regular customer base really keeps you on your toes – you have to make sure the shop is always changing and evolving in order to hold people’s interest.

Wicker lampshades inside Portstewart homewares store A Broader Picture

Owners Hannah and Steve outside Portstewart lifestyle store A Broader Picture

Do you have any advice for those thinking about opening their own stores?

How disciplined you have to be to switch off and take time to recharge the batteries. I’ve never known a time when I’ve felt on top of everything, and doubt if that will ever happen. It can be very difficult to step away for a while when there’s always an endless list of things to do, and I can often feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. However, having a good, reliable team around you makes a world of difference and I am so grateful to have the staff we do.

Find A Broader Picture at, 39-40 The Promenade, Portstewart, Northern Ireland 
or online via their website and Instagram

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