Friday, November 30, 2007

Three Smart Girls.

Story contd.

To business that we love we rise betime,

And go to with delight.

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

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 9.30am having taken our children to school and then Jan relieved us at 3pm 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 High St, ducks. You must have left the hand brake off and when I moved my van it started to roll.’

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 Lancashire frankness, but I learned - the hard way.

"The shop's great - if it weren't for the ****** customers"

27 comments:

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Fascinating Pat....To start this business was such a brave thing to do...Exciting, of course, but in my opinion, very brave, as well! And how perfect that you found the third partner fairly quickly and easily! Am anxious to hear more, my dear.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

And I am glad Michele sent you back...Oh how I wish I could have coffee with you and 'the girls'....It sounds just lovely, my dear Pat.....Do give them my best regards...! And have a wonderful time today! I'm off to Zzzzzzzzzland now....!

The Turmanators said...

Wow, very industrious for someone with small children; I'm impressed. Sounds like so much fun, too. We have a local bookstore here owned by two aquaintances of mine, and I always think how much I would enjoy puttering with the displays, shopping for items, etc. I know that this is all very pie in the sky, though.

Michele and I say good morning!

R. Sherman said...

In my grad school days, I had a professor (German Jew, who escaped to Britain in the 30's before coming to the States) who called all the girls "Ducks."

As for your flower arrangements, you really shouldn't drink while engaging in horticultural pursuits.

Cheers.

PI said...

Randall: that's interesting. It is more of an east London form of address so that must be where he picked it up. In Lancashire where I originated from it's LUV (LOVE). I find it amusing in parts of the west country where they say 'moy lover'
Drunk or sober flower arranging ain't my bag but I love flowers so just stuff them in a vase and hope for the best

Guyana-Gyal said...

Oooh, what did you say to a customer or two, Pat, that made you learn the hard way?

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

People would go to all the trouble of wrapping and tagging a uniform to pretend it's clean? It'd be quicker to have it cleaned surely. Or, just wash the thing.

I'd be mortified to give away anything not clean.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Ha ha ha I love your driving stories!! (and the rest of course) I lived in south Devon as a child and there they used to say 'moy luvverrrrr'.

PI said...

GG: 'I'm sorry we can't accept them like this - look they're all covered in dog hairs.'
Went down like a lead balloon. So I learned to wrap it up in tissue - like Mary.

PI said...

Zinnia: so be you Devonian then moy dearrrr?

Sam: you don't know the half of it. Individually folk are quite nice but, as anyone who works with the public will attest, the general public are an absolute shower. OOoh I came over all Terry Thomas!

Becky68 said...

What a neat story, I envy you your great ideas & luck in your shop. I myself buy a lot of my own & my children's clothes at resale places, though more the Goodwill, Salvation Army type places & you're right, there is a stigma involved. I relish telling people who are generally snobbish about clothes that I got something they've admired from Goodwill!
Michele Sent Me

PI said...

Hi Becky68: I'm glad you like the story and agree with its premise.

Eryl Shields said...

This all sounds so exciting: doing something like that with friends and making money too.

I have a lovely image of you removing your hands from your beautiful arrangement only to see it fragmenting...

FOUR DINNERS said...

Get my gear from modclothin.com in Nottingham or charity shops. (Mind you most charity shops think I need clothing from them anyway!!!)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I buy almost all my clothes at a do-over shop. Very wise move on my part.

Location said...

Harold always used to leave the car in 1st gear, everytime I switched on the ignition I did a kangaroo jump and cursed him with an Australian epithet. You can find some very good stuff in second hand shops near rich areas. Everybody thinks my friend Imelda, who lives in Westminster, is loaded by the way she dresses. Little do they realize she lives in a council flat and is on benefits.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Sorry that was me as "Location" - gremlins in the works, or the webmeister was pissed last night.

FOUR DINNERS said...

oops...schizo on board...

A double barreled schizo as well....

frightening

PI said...

Eryl:I still can't do it.
4d: you and my grandson and he's really cool.

Hoss- the coolest of them all:)

Daaphne: good old Harold! And Imelda is one smart girl!

PI said...

4d: be afraid- be very afraid!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

No oi bain't Devonian - we moved around the south of England a fair bit during my childhood, so I'm kind of a generic southerner.

PI said...

Zinnia: but you're still a nice person:)

sablonneuse said...

You make opening a business sound such fun despite all the hard work.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Thanks for your visit and your comment...I'm glad to know AIDS has not been forgotten there....Sometimes it feels like here in the states, AIDS is no longer a concern....Oh yes, it is in Africa, as well it should be, but, it is still very much with us here, too.....I hear throough the fund raising circles I am very familiar with that interest in AIDS Charity's is at an all time low....Very Sad.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Haha, were they really covered in dog hair?

I've never been to Devon but it makes me think of huuuuuuge, wide open spaces, the secret garden, flowers.

PI said...

sablonneuse:it was the best fun I'd had for a long time - and exciting.

Naomi: its true that over the last ten years it has a much lower profile
although people like Stephen Fry do all they can to keep it in the public eye.

GG: yes honestly and I didn't accept her explanation that they had been cleaned but then the dog must have sat on them in the back of the car. I learned you could be just as strict but with a smile to soften things:)
My grandaughter when told her other grandmother had gone to Heaven has always confused it with Devon. Not far out really.

kenju said...

I know a woman here in our city who started a re-sale consignment business and she had the same trouble with people bringing in clothing that had not been cleaned. You were brave to start that business!