Walking into Rowans Shop in Fratton, on a dark autumn morning I felt like I had stepped into an area bathed in a warm glowing light. The shop neatly ordered into different areas of merchandise, clothes neatly arranged by type with each hanger, dressed with a multi-coloured sizing toggle around the neck, hung on the gleaming silver rails. Polished shoes stand to attention, clean soles and sparkling jewellery reflecting on the glass surface. Along the walls pictures, toys, books and household goods are proudly displayed.
Immediately I was greeted by a warm welcome, which rang out to all customers as they entered the shop, several customers also received welcoming hugs and conversation flowed easily as they caught up on recent news. The gentle sound of chatter, was frequently dispersed by laughter.
“It was an atmosphere I rarely experienced in a shop, but after spending the morning observing and chatting to the manager, volunteers and customers, it was clear that a Rowans store is so much more than just a place to shop.”
Store Manager, Nanou tells me: “I totally believe in what the hospice does and it’s great to know that the money we raise through this store is funding incredible care. Because Neil, my partner’s brother, was cared for in the hospice, nothing was ever an issue and the care was outstanding, he had the attention he needed 24/ 7. For us as family, it was lovely to be able to know we could visit and stay with him for however long we wanted.”
June Anderson, started volunteering in the shop over 18 years ago, comments: “I think so highly of the team I work with, we have all become such good friends. I enjoy being in the shop so much, as I like to be kept busy and just love chatting to everyone. In fact when I was ill last year, Nanou, teased me that my fan club was missing me as so many people were asking where I was.”
As soon as June finished talking, Anne Beckett, one of the shop’s regular customers, joins us and the ladies give each other a hug. Anne Beckett says: “Just like in the hospice, the shop is wonderful and welcoming. Everything in here is so well ordered, size and clothing are clearly displayed. Plus the clothing is very, very good quality.”
Speaking to Val & Trevor Carpenter, other regular customers to the store Val tells me:
“For the last 15 years or so, we always try to pop into the Fratton store each week. It is a real community shop, due to the lovely, caring and friendly staff, who always make you feel so welcome. If you don’t pop in one week, they notice; as next time you are in they tell you they missed you and ask if everything is ok. It is also such a pleasant shopping environment, is bright, clean and everything is really good quality, which is great as I have often managed to bag some great bargains. Of course we know of many people who have used the hospice services in the hospice itself and within their homes plus are aware of the support that their family members have received, so it is nice to know money spent in here is helping fund a worthy local charity.”
Sally Isted, has volunteer at this shop for 25 years, tells me:
“The Fratton shop has always been a very close knit community with everyone co-operating well. I call it the Magic Shop. I have seen alcoholics being given the chance to volunteer and it has changed their lives. People who were initially terribly shy and who would hide themselves away whilst doing their jobs have become very outgoing. We have had volunteers as well as customers who have had cancer and we have been there from them. We have also had people who have suffered a bereavement and they have brought in some of their loved ones clothes and possessions. When they have wanted to talk, we have always tried to offer some words of comfort.”
Finally, just before I leave, a head pops through the door. Sally, June and Roma’s faces light up and welcome Doreen Davis, who also used to volunteer in the shop. Doreen states “We all had great fun and became good friends, so I often like to pop in to see everyone.”
Leaving the shop, my thoughts echoed Doreen’s words exactly, I want to pop back in soon to see everyone.