Thanet Star was in attendance at the Margate Night Market Christmas celebrations recently. Apparently the Holiday Season was not all that was being celebrated, as Margate High Street's door number 60, Gifts & Things, celebrated its sixth month-versary since it opened its doors to the public.
Matthew left me to speak with the proprietors, Claire and Jenny, as he ventured to admire more of the evening's festivities elsewhere. The ladies provided me with a glass of wine and we discussed their business, what makes it so special, and why it is such a good thing for Margate.
Gifts & Things is not dissimilar to local project Pop-Up Margate, an idea developed by Margate Town Team and Mary Portas 'Queen Of Shops' which encourages local craftsmen and small business owners and gives them a place to promote and sell their products. Claire and Jenny both began their businesses at Pop-Up Margate, but found that they wanted their independence, so decided to work together to create No 60 Gifts & Things. The difference that they decided they wanted to make was that at their shop they sell products on behalf of the craftsmen and business owners.
Margate Town Team helped them find the property, which was not anything like what they were looking for, but they decided it was perfect for them. Funding was also going to be provided for improving the shop front as part of Margate Town Team's scheme, but their landlord, who they have nothing but praise for, wanted those funds to go elsewhere and insisted he pay for the shop front himself. His name is Keith Preston, and my hat very much goes off to him for being such a good Samaritan.
For ten pounds per week a space can be rented for wares. The price includes a double shelf, a page on their website, and advertising on social networks. Along with shelf space, a room is available to rent on a daily or weekly basis,
suitable for treatments, therapies, card readers, photographers or similar according to their website. Claire explained to me that
we intend to also offer our shelf sellers the option of selling online with us too. If we stay after our first year (which we certainly hope to) we'll be expanding it then.
They are not simply "in it" for the money and the business, however. These women are also passionate about Margate Town, its people, their fellow business owners, and even local charities. We spoke at length about how they hope to help the High Street find renewed life, mentioning how Pop-Up Margate was a good start and they hope to build on that success story.
They also try to work with local businesses, citing that they have tried to use as many fellow Thanet businesses as possible when in need of external services. A free shelf is available to charities for three week periods, helping them raise funds.
At the moment we have Springways, which is a drop in centre in Westgate for those with mental health issues. They make up wrapped gifts with donations they've had & sweets states Claire.
I spoke with crochet seller Linda, who had nothing but good things to say of her experience hiring shelf space from Gifts & Things. She has been with them since the day they opened, following them from when they knew each other at Pop-Up Margate. She, too, wanted more freedom, and appreciated how selling here as opposed to there meant that she can now have more free time to spend with her family, and indeed, to make more crochet, thereby increasing her money intake.
Another very happy shelf renter is a lady who was priorly living on only Job Seeker's Allowance, but has since been able to gain independence by selling her sewing wares via Gifts & Things. She is now off of Benefits completely, a truly inspiring story.
I myself am considering selling with Gifts & Things, and am currently discussing the possibility with Claire, who has been very helpful and encouraging, advising me on what kinds of products sell best, the sort of customers I can expect, the pricing options for their shelves, etc. I feel like I am in good hands.
Another way that Claire and Jenny are involving themselves in the community is by encouraging youth to learn the crafts involved in making the products on offer. There is an area inside the shop dedicated to doing workshops, called the Come & Create area, where children can "pop in" without appointment and create bracelets, keychains, soaps, cupcakes and more. There is a charge for this, see website for details.
In fact, this craft area has not been only a success with the children. There has been much request by parents that they too can use the craft space that, come the new year, there are plans to hold Adult-Only Workshops with tutoring from the craftsmen who sell their wares at Gifts & Things. I shall be attending one or more of these Adult-Only Workshops on behalf of Thanet Star so that I can report back to you, the readers, of my experience. Watch this space!
For further details on the products for sale, workshops they are running, and how you can hire an area for your own business, or for any other information, please do visit their website or "Like" them on Facebook.