Three Smart Girls.
To business that we love we rise betime,
And go to with delight.
In spite of Spat’s dismay at my jumping the gun and advertising the shop before the premises were ours, we were thrilled when he told us that Mr Cartier had accepted us as tenants and the second floor was ours. During the next week we had five replies to our third partner ad and when we saw Jan walking up the path of Mary’s house we both knew she was the one. She was younger than us, petite with short brown curly hair and a slightly worried expression which vanished when a smile lit up her face and revealed her sparkling white teeth.
She told us she was married and although they had hoped for children it hadn’t happened. She had worked in offices all her life and had lots of book keeping experience but felt like a change and would be happy to be working part time. She had beautiful pink painted nails I remember. Over a cup of tea Mary and I exchanged one of our looks which meant we both were agreed and to snap her up at once ignoring the usual. ‘We’ll be in touch.’ How right we were.
The next week-end we were all at the shop – as we now called it – the three of us and our families – some painting, some amusing the children; fortunately there was a park close by. Even Mary’s old father came along and stuck an axe at the top of the stairs – in case of fire, he said. I never did work out what we were to do with it but fortunately the need never arose.
We had just one hanging rail to start with and almost enough clothes to fill it. The main room looked a trifle bare so Mary – who was quite artistic, filled the gaps with large flower arrangements. She persuaded me to join her in classes and I discovered the fantastic arrangements I did fell over when I took my hands away. Mary and I opened the shop at having taken our children to school and then Jan relieved us at when we picked the children up from school. The intention was for Mary and I to do two days each whilst Jan did the late afternoons and we took turns with Saturday.
It was only necessary for one person to be there in those very early days but Mary and I were there most days, in the first flush of new love. One day I was hanging out of the window feeling rather like the ladies in Amsterdam must do, wondering how I could entice shoppers to come up and see me, when, to my horror I saw someone trying to get into my car. In those days one could park in the High Street all day. I tore down two flights of stairs, rushed up to the man and said.
‘What are you doing with my car?’
‘I’m trying to stop it rolling down the
Embarrassing but at least I learned to always leave the car in first gear from then on.
We had fun thinking up ads in the local paper to announce the various school uniforms we were gradually stocking. This resulted in a visit from a rather pompous head master who told us that his school didn’t need any advertising and would we desist. Did he think we were doing it for his benefit? We had started selling all sports gear, lacrosse and hockey sticks and cricket bats etc. Then we discovered that he owned the sports shop opposite to us. In the end we decided that a bit of healthy competition was no bad thing and carried on.
We worked like beavers – spreading the word – our Beauty Counsellor experience proved very useful. The big problem was to overcome the snobbishness regarding second-hand clothes. Somehow we had to convince people it was the smart thing to do. That meant that the shop should always be pristine and the clothes immaculate. Much easier said than done when someone would bring in clothes on a hanger, swathed in polythene, with a cleaner’s ticket pinned to it and when one examined the garment it would be grubby and obviously has never been near a dry cleaner. The trick then was to tactfully say; unfortunately the cleaners haven’t made a very good job of it and advise them to complain. Mary was much better at this than I was, with my