18 years young and still going strong
Vintage inspired, retro, classic fashion brands, that’s what Ramjet’s been bringing to Darby Street for eighteen years, and whilst things may have changed fashion-wise there’s been one constant, Michelle Ramsay.
If you’ve ever visited the eclectic boutique, or even just walked past, chances are you will have come across Michelle’s larger than life personality which will put a smile on your dial.
Stopping in one Wednesday afternoon Michelle chats to us about riding the highs and lows that come with being in the retail world and the fact that there’s no real secret to her longevity, 18 years this year, just good old fashioned hard work, mixed with a lot of fun.
“I think people like that Ramjet's real, I don’t take things too seriously but in saying that I work five days a week, I do the buying, the merchandising, I pay the bills, I do all the hanging on the shelves. I do also have an awesome girl that works for me, Caitlin, but I am really hands on.”
But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing with Michelle saying,
“I haven’t always made smart decisions. When I was younger just for no reason I would see a shop for lease and thought ‘oh that looks fun’ and open up a shop. A couple of years ago I got into a bit of strife when I spent a chunk of money opening other boutiques, as well as Ramjet I had Goody Too Shoes and Ramjam Thank You Mam, and I closed them after two years so it was dead money. I realised then that there’s no point paying staff just to be in the shop.”
“So I had to pull my belt in, now I don’t overbuy, I’ve learned to under buy, then ring up the stockists and say fuck I need stock, and they get it here the next day. I also only order one size per item, as I don’t want people coming into a boutique store and wander off finding fifteen other people wearing the same thing.”
You haven’t always lived in Newcastle, what brought you here originally?
I was a runaway bride, I literally high tailed it here when I was 22 and started working in Darby Street with International Appliances. I fell in love with Newcastle and ended up working there for three years. During that time I just kept watching all the office workers walk past, and there was nowhere for them to shop, and I just thought there’s a space across the road that’s for lease, I think I am going to open a shop and see how I go. So once again I didn’t really think about that either.
How has Ramjet changed in eighteen years
You know what, nothing in here has changed, the racks are the same, the floor’s the same, the counter may have changed once. To keep myself entertained I change the wallpaper from time to time. I find it better to spend money on the clothes.
And the fashion?
I think the store has aged with me. I was 26 when I started the shop, so clearly I’ve evolved as a person but I am a Gemini so depending on what mood I am in very much dictates what I buy. I get deliveries that I ordered 6 months ago and think, this is bizarre and then the next day I love it.
Totem used to be by far my best label, I’ve sold it as long as I’ve been here but nowadays it’s a slightly dressier label, the stock I have now is more everyday wear which appeals to most of my clientele who are at a similar stage to me, mums who are working who like to wear things that are dressy but practical.
One thing I’ve tried not to do is pigeon whole Ramjet into one type of person which has worked to my advantage. With most of my range, I can dress my 12-year-old niece and I can dress a client I have that’s 85, I can dress a size 6 up to a plus size.
I like how you still write out receipts in the receipt book, are you a paper kind of person?
I am totally old school and a manual person, nothing’s computerised, this is my till [pulling out the 80’s looking black till that’s filled with all sorts of bits and pieces].
We have evolved a little, I am very active on social media, which works well, people do buy through social media. We’ve got about 30% of our stock online, encouraged by the lovely Caitlin to get us with the times. It was also a request from clients that had moved away.
As the chat continues and shoppers wander in and out, Michelle meets, greets and has this effortless ability to dress people of all shapes and sizes from head to toe in just a few seconds, and makes them feel amazing about themselves in the process.
We also love that Ramjet caters to absolutely everyone with toys for the kids, a courtyard out the back for the husbands to chill whilst you go to work shopping. It’s even dog-friendly with Michelle being a massive lover of our four-footed friends.