The shops are open! Hurray! And whilst the news is busy showing people elbowing each other off a Primark escalator. I’m here to celebrate the small ones.
I spent many years working in shops. And I love them. I love creative window displays, chatting to customers, satisfying piles of folded jumpers, a finger spaced rail and that specific type of boredom you have when things are really, really quiet.
When I worked in a really fancy clothes shop I had a colleague called Amanda. Amanda had bouncy curly hair, dressed exclusively in Prada, and had a black book of high- rolling customers. She was also amazing at telling stories, being hilariously animated with huge expressive eyes and a range of ‘voices’
One rainy Wednesday, whilst being specifically bored, she recounted to me the entire plot of the hit romantic comedy ‘You’ve Got Mail’. In case you’ve not had the pleasure… It’s about a struggling children’s bookshop owner (Meg Ryan) who hates the owner of the corporate ‘Foxbooks’ chain store (Tom Hanks) They become business rivals. Romance ensues.
Now, Amanda was wonderful at telling stories but I never needed to see Meg Ryan’s bookshop ‘Shop Around The Corner’ to imagine how perfect it would be.
I wanted to go to it so much that I ached.
I could see the dusky autumnal street it was on, picture the twinkly lights in the doorway, imagine wearing the fluffy polo-neck jumper and cradling a coffee. A takeaway coffee.
I saw the film not long after and, of course, it was as good as I’d hoped for. But the romance of hearing about the dark green painted windows and the Saturday morning book readings and the eccentric staff and those cosy corners. I had found my happy place. If only, one day, I could have a shop as perfect as that ‘ Shop Around The Corner’. That was it- thanks to Amanda, I was completely smitten with shops.
So as our ‘non essential’ shops adjust to their ‘two customers at a time’, the queues and the no contact We must go there and spend there. Because they’re always more than just a bakery, a book shop or a fancy clothes store. They’re our communities, they’re other’s livelihoods and they’ve always been someone’s dream.