‘In Spain I missed being able to buy decent birthday cards’

In this week's instalment of My Spanish Career The Local talks to Nadine Walker, a boutique owner in one of Madrid's coolest neighbourhoods.

'In Spain I missed being able to buy decent birthday cards'
Nadine Walker set up Nest in Madrid's Malasaña. Photos: Nadine Walker

The 36-year old has lived in Venezuela, Germany, England and Spain. After a stint working in Irish bars, as a translator and for a recruitment consultancy, she decided office work wasn't for her and started researching potential ideas for a shop.

She set up Nest, a boutique greetings card and gift shop in one of the capital's trendiest neighbourhoods.

Where are you from originally and what brought you to Spain?

I'm half German-half English and originally from North Yorkshire, although my Dad came to Madrid for work when I was 12 and we all moved out here. I went back to the UK for university but then decided to come back and work in Madrid.

What do you love about living in Madrid and what do you loathe?

I love the social life, the climate, the people are so friendly and the food's delicious! I still have my family here which is really important to me too. I loathe the tax office! And, perhaps not so much loathe, but certainly getting very tired of the dirty streets  and vandalism in the centre.

What inspired you to open Nest?

I missed being able to get decent birthday cards! I'd always go back to England and stock up on cards and giftwrap and I loved going into stationery and little gift shops. I realised that there was a niche in the market here for that kind of business. Originally I just thought of cards and wrapping papers but decided to include a selection of gifts, as the custom of giving greeting cards here wasn´t very big. 

Tell us a little bit about the shop.

It's a small gift shop with a big personality! It's filled with fun and unique gifts for loved-ones, friends or treats for yourself without breaking the bank. Products range from stationery, craft, home decoration to jewellery, general gifts and children's products. There's a small area called Baby Nest solely dedicated to the little ones! (I used to own a separate shop called Baby Nest in Plaza Dos de Mayo, but decided to close it and incorporate it into this one..much better!). 

Why was Malasaña the perfect location for Nest?

I just loved the area and could see that it was up-and-coming. It was 2008 when I was looking to open, just when the economic crisis hit (great timing!), but decided not to let that deter me and was convinced it could work. Over the years the barrio has just boomed. The plaza where Nest is located was relatively unknown to people who didn't know the area well, but it's just become so popular over the years, particularly with tourists. I still consider myself extremely lucky to have found this location, being in the square has been amazing. If I had opened on a smaller side street I certainly wouldn't have had the same success.

Who are your typical customers? Are they mainly expats or do you get a lot of interest from Spaniards as well?

Most customers I'd say are Spanish although I do get a lot of expats and tourists. The Spanish customers are delighted with the selection of cards and wrap, which I love. There are still very few shops that sell these products here and it surprises me..not that I'm complaining.!

You have some brilliant products in the shop. How do you go about choosing what to stock?

I've been to quite a few trade fairs, mainly in the UK where most of the products are from, also from travelling around, looking online and getting recommendations from friends. It's hard to choose, there are so many great products – I have to restrain myself from buying them all! I mainly focus on novelty and price. I don't like my shop to be overpriced for this area.

Do you have a particular favourite product? What are your top-sellers?

One of my favourite products is the Unicorn Moneypot. It's white porcelein with a golden horn, gorgeous! It's definitely a top-seller. The cards, postcards and gift wrap are also top sellers. They often use the wrapping papers here as posters or for decorating books, furniture etc. The jewellery I stock is all from local designers and that's also a very big seller, some really beautiful pieces of jewellery.

Do you think there’s a big difference between shopping habits in the UK and Spain?

Not really. Obviously things such as cards and gift wrap are still a much bigger seller in the UK. Also in Spain customers are used to having their purchase giftwrapped by the store and I've often had people come in, with products bought elsewhere, buying a sheet of wrapping paper and asking me to wrap them! It's a little annoying but something I've got used to. Ha.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm working on producing more of my own products. At the moment I have a few small things, such as postcards, but I'm working on other designs and ideas. I'd also like to open another Nest someday but for the time being I'm quite happy with my lifestyle by having just the one shop! 
Being your own boss is wonderful! However, it has its downsides're responsible for everything.
Nest Boutique is located at Plaza de San Ildefonso, 3, 28004 Madrid. Check out the website.

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