From Peru to York: Shop selling alpaca clothes and gifts opens on Shambles

Inside the colourful new Essence Of Peru shop
16 Oct 2015 @ 2.17 pm
| Business, Shopping

In 2008, Rowena Johnson borrowed £1,000 to start a business importing hand-crafted children’s clothing from Peru.

Anyone who visited York market over the last seven years would recognise her stall – it was decorated by a vast array of brightly coloured children’s cardigans and finger-puppets.

From those humble beginnings, she now has two full time members of staff and has just opened her second shop, Essence Of Peru, a 1,000 sq foot premises hidden within historic Shambles.

Direct from South America

Take a seat… an Essence Of Peru living room sofa
Take a seat… an Essence Of Peru living room sofa

Essence Of Peru focuses on bringing high quality hand-crafted products directly from Peru into the UK.

They deal directly with the people that make their products, and so offer the best prices for alpaca clothing and homeware by cutting out the middle-man.

10% off online orders

Essence Of Peru website

Special offer for YorkMix readers: paste the code peru1 into the coupon code box and your discount will be applied to your order

The business on York market started by selling children’s Arpillera cardigans. It soon became a very popular product and Rowena rapidly got a great customer base both locally and further afield.

After visiting Peru and seeing the multitude of amazing alpaca products over there, she expanded the business considerably to stock pure alpaca teddy bears, finger-puppets and a bigger range of children’s wear.

Making the move

The colourful, hand-crafted children's clothes
The colourful, hand-crafted children’s clothes

Rowena decided to take the plunge from market stall to shop after the recent market refurbishment saw a dramatic loss in footfall.

She said:

I had been thinking about the move for some time, but the nail on the head was when we lost our regular pitches, and things just seemed to go downhill from there.

I knew I had a good business, so if the customers weren’t coming into the market, I needed to move my business elsewhere.

Rowena on a visit to Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel in Peru
Rowena on a visit to Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel in Peru

A seasoned entrepreneur (she is also the inventor of BugBrush, a new type of infant toothbrush), she signed the leases for both of her shops on the same day, realising the potential of having a small premises on the ground floor and a larger showroom area just a few doors down.

Children’s workshop

The entrance, round the back of Shambles on the market side
The entrance, round the back of Shambles on the market side
Essence Of Peru

39a Shambles & 43 Shambles, York

Facebook page


Her second shop opened on Monday (October 10), and can only be described as a hidden gem just off Shambles.

Access is via a rainbow staircase from the market side at the rear of the Shambles, and can’t be missed thanks to a life-sized Alpaca at the doorway named Alexandra.

There are six rooms over tow floors in this medieval premises; a living room, bedroom, retail area and carpentry area – where children can learn how to make their own medieval play weaponry thanks to their in-house carpenter Terry. 

The shop is home to some amazing alpaca homeware – including cushions, rugs and bedspreads.

With a Narnia room planned to open in November 2015, we are sure that Essence of Peru will be a much loved and visited business for years to come.