Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rose & Linda.

Today was the tenth anniversary of the Art Cafe opening in Hinckley, and the 24th anniversary of the Art Studio, Hinckley's art shop which I've written about before, and which was the first place to sell the cards I made as a second year degree student when I came home from Polytechnic from time to time.

This is significant because Hinckley's not exactly got a reputation for long-lasting businesses. it certainly did, until a couple of decades ago, but those businesses - such as the china shop, the sportswear shop that sold the (British-made) school uniforms, the toy shop and the high-end hi-fi place - have long been replaced by charity shops, coffee shops and...well, empty shops.

I'll just contextualise this 24 years in business a little bit. Our main street, which was once a quite delightful buzzy thoroughfare lined with trees, opticians, flowers, books, solicitors offices with beautiful etched glass, travel agents, clothes shops and plentiful parking was turned into a corpsy murk of a place, with the outrageous and deeply unpopular decision to pedestrianise. This decision effectively cut off the air supply to the little independent shops and ensuring their gradual metamorphosis into the destination for the 8am drinkers, the 4am kebab buyers and the grimly predictable procession of hopeful new shop / sad closed shop that everyone but the councillors predicted. The cobbler's, there since the 70s, is a testament to the fact though that some things will always be required - good shoes will always need repairing, despite the Bargain Shoes shop selling plastic horrors for the same price as the posh coffeechino mocha-ry of a drink sold a few doors down.

This all sounds rather negative. But it's important to put Rose and Linda's success against a truthful backdrop. The top end of town, where their lovely cafe, gallery and art shop sits, has been subjected to similar harrowing decision-making, but it hasn't had its soul torn out. The little knitting shop is still there, there's a tattoo shop next door to the hairdresser who has been there for 35 years, and the new Polish food shop only adds to the flavour of the area. Hinckley's oldest record shop, also opened 35 years ago, is still going strong and is just round the corner. Rose, joined by Linda a few years later, opened her art shop in 1989 to my immense relief (prior to that it meant a train ride to Leicester for supplies) and through recessions, the freezing cold of winter and baking hot of summer, her top-floor shop supplied everything the local artist could want.

These two ladies have flexed and adapted to every change in the town, adding to their offering steadily with workshops, jewellery (Rose's original trade is jewellery), events, coffee, sandwiches, exhibitions and rented studios. I had one of them, for a few years while I was working on two businesses simultaneously and needed 'separation'. It had a ghost (no, it actually did). Which alone made the rent worth it!

We went in today to offer our congrats and to have a chat. It turned out to be a much longer one than we thought; I'd never really thought about our businesses and some frank discussion were had as to the realities and challenges of being in your own business, comparing notes a little, but overall, celebrating quietly the fact that we're all still here, businesses, limbs, sense of humour and souls intact, and that, really, is something to be very happy about indeed.

Cafe reviews.

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