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Scarramouch & Harlequin

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Scaramouch piercing and tattooing shop in Cheltenham has earned itself a bit of a ‘wacky’ reputation over the years; from the hippy clothing, the outlandish trinkets and eccentric staff, this is a place with plenty of character! Catching up with straight-talking owner, Juliet, it is clear to see the influence her own colourful personality has had on creating the Scaramouch Cheltenham knows and loves today...

“I opened the shop in 1979, naming it ‘Scaramouch’ after my favourite character from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. I started the shop from nothing, initially doing bridal wear. After about ten years things started going in a different direction - the bridal wear stopped, we started selling jewellery, and eventually piercing and tattoos – it’s just naturally evolved into what it is”

Was this something Juliet had always dreamed of doing? “It just sort of happened! I did sit down one day and think, how on earth did I get here? But I didn’t have a clue! It does sound very vague but I’m extremely relaxed about business; we tried something, people liked it, it lead to something else, and it just took on a life of its own”

As well as Scarramouch, Juliet also runs new cafe, Harlequin on the Lower High Street. Harlequin is a nostalgic, 40s-inspired art deco tea room that is a very unique addition to Cheltenham that again demonstrates Juliet’s creativity. “The idea for Harlequin came up about two and a half years ago when my mother got ill. I tried to get her out and about but I couldn’t really find a cafe suitable to take her to. I realised there wasn’t really anywhere in Cheltenham that I could see for older people at all... And it all just went from there – it’s nice isn’t it!” she adds.

The cafe serves tea and various quirky homemade cakes, shortbreads and teacakes which can be enjoyed in the company of various vintage paintings, china, dresses, handbags and a whole assortment of other things. You can also surf the net in the cafe, making use of the free WiFi which has made the cafe popular with students.

Business was a little slow to start with, since it was in the middle of the recession. There was certainly a dip in customer numbers at the beginning of this year but that has slowly picked up. Even when I opened Scaramouch in the 70s we were in a recession. It didn’t scare me because luckily I’m a little bit mad! I just thought, if you start a business in a recession and survive then you’re going to be OK”

So what’s next? “I don’t think I’ll be opening a new business – two’s enough to keep me busy! Because of all the interest in Harlequin we’ve had from students, I’m contemplating opening a new upstairs area for them which will be a bit more relaxed, perhaps with sofas and different music playing. Downstairs we play music from the 1920s but upstairs I’d like a different era - some 50s swing perhaps” Whatever Juliet has in store for Scaramouch and Harlequin, I can bet you it will be something totally unexpected... watch this space!