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20 Years of Monkey Puzzle: Allison's Story

July 01, 2016 Allison Bray

So, it's 20 years ago since the doors of this business first opened, and I can hardly believe it's been this long!

Having worked in 3 other businesses in the same street, I was certainly very familiar with High Petergate and most of those that frequented it. A part time job in Ancient World (selling Antiquities and fossils) is what inspired me to go it alone. A forecasted career in social work was cast aside and, on 11th July 1996, the doors of "The Crystal House" were opened.

A meagre beginning selling crystals and minerals and a tiny selection of Amber. I knew there was a niche for these as Ancient World had stopped selling them, yet people were still asking for them. I lived at home (rent free with mum and dad) and ploughed every penny I had back in to this little enterprise.

A year later, my parents were on holiday in Derbyshire and stumbled across a great supplier of Blue John jewellery. I decided to give it a whirl! This was the true beginnings of a jewellery shop. After Blue John came Agate, Jasper, Carnelian, Onyx, Amethyst and Jet jewellery. Customers loved it, so did I!

Gradually Crystals were phased out. I'd met Martin (now my husband) and he persuaded me to do a complete shop re fit and re name the business. A love of Monkeys found us playing with names "Monkey Wrench", "Monkey Business " . . . ( I think not)! and finally Monkey Puzzle! A beautiful tree that has associations with Amber and Jet . . . Perfect!

So, in 1998 Monkey Puzzle ( as you know it) was formed! We loved travelling off to jewellery shows in England and Europe. We met fantastic designers. Furrer Jacot, Fischer, and Step by Step from the continent, and David Scott Walker, The Amber Centre, and Reeves and Reeves being amongst my favourites. It's not just the jewellery, it's the relationship with the people behind it, and that's what's been special.

Marriage and 2 daughters born within 10 months of each other meant that life was pretty full on. I employed part time staff to help out. Some of these have become lifelong friends!

The recession proved tricky as the soaring costs of precious metals saw huge price increases which was difficult to manage as it was clear the the public were tightening their belts. Navigating my way through this was difficult and influenced a trend away from Gold to more silver, and to finer pieces. Having said this, we still stock a good range of gold jewellery.

In 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to take over a year out as surgery; Chemotherapy and other treatments were needed. During this period I was so touched to find that so many lovely customers took the time to send cards and messages of goodwill.

I was, and still am, very grateful to all of you. It really helped to support me through it. Staff rallied round to ensure everything ran smoothly in my absence and before I knew it my 17 months of treatments were complete, and I could return.

So, one marriage, 2 daughters, 3 Labradors, 7 puppies, 3 house renovations, 11 staff members, one recession, one brush with cancer, several wonderful suppliers and a mass of regular customers later, we're still here celebrating our 20th anniversary. Most importantly, we're celebrating with you!

The face of the High Street is changing. We hope to be here, with your support, for many more years to come.

To show my gratitude for your support, I would like to offer you the following: 

20 for 20: Celebrating 20 years, here are some of my favourite pieces on special offer.

Reeves and Reeves Competition: Purchase a Reeves and Reeves piece and be entered into a draw to win it's other half! 


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