Our Falmouth lifestyle shop is my husband’s favourite shop. If we visit the town he just has to pop in. He, like many other customers it would seem, calls it a ‘proper shop’. When I ask him what he means he says it’s because the volunteers and staff talk to you, have a laugh and show interest in why you’re there. I arrive at this ‘proper shop’ five minutes late, soaking wet and grumpy having paid a fortune to park, but the warm welcome is immediate and I’m downing a coffee in just a few short minutes.
Situated in Falmouth’s Church Street, the windows draw you in, one promising interesting new goods, the other a glimpse of the donated stock. Su, who says volunteering keeps her out of trouble, is proud of her window displays and shows me pictures from her Christmas, Valentine’s, St Piran’s and Bonfire Night creations – she has flare and imagination! Today she’s re-arranging the beautiful window at the back of the shop. “I volunteered for a hospice in Manchester before we moved down” she explains, “and ended up here seven years ago after doing a stint up-cycling furniture at our Penryn Retro shop. I’m very happy here and my husband works at the Penryn Homestyle shop.”
Van driver Steve arrives with a smile and easy chatter. The shop is in full flow and I’m loving it. Volunteer Gwen, who’s been involved for 11 years, is on the till and tagging donations and Manager Russell Stewart is making the morning coffee! “This shop just wouldn’t function without volunteers” he says, “but sometimes we struggle and my long term volunteers are all getting older, I hope they don’t mind me saying that.” He and his team clearly have a great relationship as they joke and chat in a comfortable way that underpins a respect between them all. They are a proper shop gang and that’s what brings the customers in. I think this as a gentleman slips in to Gwen and whispers “can I drop these donations in? My wife says it’s all good stuff!”
My day rolls along as I steam clothes, tag shoes for sale and chat (that’s the best bit!). And then the afternoon shift arrive and I meet volunteers Abi and Peppi. Both their husbands died in one of our hospices and together they make a memorable duo, dedicated to the cause and full of fun. “Coming here means there’s no time for loneliness or depression, it gets you out” says Abi, “it gives your life some order.”
They dress me in an outfit to promote our #TwentyPoundChallenge on social media and then take me in the backroom to record some thoughts that you can listen to here.
So it rained all day and the parking was expensive, but I had a ball and now I get why this is my husband’s favourite shop. It is a ‘proper shop’ and long may it stay that way, with Su’s lovely windows, Russell’s warm welcome and the volunteer’s laughter. Make sure you call in and say Tamsin sent you.