An interview with Helen Muir-Stokes, owner of new shop Mija in Weavers Walk, Newbury
A Q&A with Helen Muir-Stokes, owner of the new clothing and gift shop Mija, in Weavers Walk, Newbury.
When did you open?
We officially opened in late summer 2023.
My husband I work together as a strong, complimentary team. I’ve curated the ideas and stock and he helps with all mysterious techy things and often helps with serving customers.
Where did you get the idea for the business?
‘Mija’ was inspired by many things, the unusual and quirky independent retailers on the South coast, my love of vibrant colours but mostly my two beautiful daughters and the treasures we have found together (hence the shop name ‘Mija’, meaning ‘my daughter’ in Spanish, a dedication to two amazing girls that have brought so much love and joy to my life).
One particular shop specialised in Mexican and Guatemalan handmade gifts and the colours were simply stunning. My two daughters and I absolutely adore this shop and want to have mooch whenever passing.
I remember the first time I saw the beautiful Cape Cornwall recycled Indian sari clothing range we stock, trading on a beach front. The vibrant coloured garments were blowing and glistening on a breezy summer’s day and it was simply mesmerising. I instantly knew I wanted to stock the clothing range.
The shop has grown from here and I personally handpick unique items that compliment my shop. Wherever possible, I try to choose ethical products and test their longevity.
What does the shop specialise in?
I predominately sell handpicked unique gifts for all ages (many of which are ethical and handmade), ethical clothing, greetings cards and home decor. The range continues to evolve.
After 12 years of having the wonderful opportunity of being a stay-at-home mum, I knew I needed something more for myself.
Unfortunately, during this period, I developed an anxiety disorder which knocked my confidence.
By chance, in 2022 we stumbled across a beautiful bay on the South coast and started holidaying there regularly.
A combination of being surrounded by the bay’s natural beauty, sounds of the ocean, the warmth of the friendly locals and many experiences that would normally be out of my comfort zone, helped me recover and feel able to start my own business.
Also, the stories of strong women such as Frida Kahlo and Mary Anning gave me a sense of renewed belief, that if we don't give up during challenging times, we can achieve so much.
I wanted to bring these influences and positivity home to Newbury.
I believe colour has a positive effect on our mood and personally have experienced its therapeutic benefits.
I worked as a holistic therapist and we offered a colour therapy facial that included colour visualisation.
If you have the ability to use visualisation (not everyone does) you’ll have experienced how we can associate different colours to our sensory experiences without physically seeing them.
We can feel the different effects of colour on our mood through the seasons.
The first signs of spring flowers can have an uplifting effect and when the dark nights of winter draw in, we choose to embellish our homes with warming colourful Christmas decorations.
Everything at Mija is vibrantly coloured so you can bring the joy of colour into your home and wardrobe at anytime time of the the year!
What are your future hopes for the shop and what it brings to Newbury?
I hope to work closely with my fellow independent retailers to bring the people of Newbury to Weavers Walk.
We have such a lovely offering here, three divine eateries (Weavers Coffee Shop, Lusso and Lebanese House), Fifi & Moose, a stunning award-winning fashion boutique, Core Therapies, a luxurious highly-rated health spa and Forrest Motorsport Race Room, an exhilarating motorsport simulator experience.
Summer is a particularly special time at Weavers Walk as many customers have a sense of being on holiday, but we all have so much to offer throughout the year, especially this Christmas.
You can conveniently park just behind our shops from West Street or enter from the main high street (Northbrook Street).