The first of December brought a brand new shop to Henley with the grand opening of Thames Hospice. At noon, Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton and special guest Angie Best cut the ribbon before an excited crowd, declaring the store officially open. The charity shop, which has taken the place of No 27 on Duke Street, aims to bring a boutique shopping experience to the customer to compliment their hospitable purpose.
The Thames Hospice charity provides care for those with life limiting illness in East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire. Though currently based in Windsor, the centre will soon be moving to Bray, increasing the number of beds from 17 to 28. With costs of over £7 million a year, retail is crucial in keeping the operation running, and represents roughly a third of their income. The charity is aiming to open ten new stores in the space of three years, with Henley marking the third of these, and their 18th shop overall.
In little over two weeks, the Thames Hospice premises have been transformed to reflect the organisation’s vision of a lavish charity shop. Julie Rowley, Director of Retail (and one of the creative geniuses behind the store’s luxury finish), divulged, “We want to be a force on the high street, to take ourselves to the same level as the other high street shops.” Her sentiments were echoed by Area Manager Julianne Chapman. “We hope we will prove to the locals that we are aren’t just another charity shop, that we offer something a bit different,” she stated.
From homeware to clothing, artwork to accessories, Thames Hospice offers a wide range of elegantly displayed stock. The items on offer are a mixture of new, secondhand, and unique upcycled goods, the latter of which were a draw for many customers. Mayor Kellie Hinton, after making the store’s first purchase, expressed her enthusiasm for the new retailer. “It’s really wonderful to have Thames Hospice in town,” she commented, “It’s lovely that they’ve managed such a quick turnaround. I walked in this morning and I was shocked at the layout and the fitting. You wouldn’t know it was a charity shop without the signs. I really love the upcycled items.”
The Thames Hospice shop is currently run by a couple of managers, though they are eagerly seeking volunteers. The Mayor has been working closely with Henley College Student President, Sophie Lucas, in the hopes of getting the college students involved with the organisation. Sophie explained, “Kellie and I are working very closely together, and we want to get our business students involved. We’re aiming to integrate the town and college, so we are working together and not just alongside each other to promote a cohesive town!” The pair are planning a week’s work experience programme for the business students, as well as encouraging other students to boost their CV by volunteering. “I’m really excited about what it could mean for the college and the town,” Sophie declared. “It’s a really worthy cause.”
Model and fitness expert Angie Best, who owns Henley’s Metaphysical gym, was equally complimentary of Thames Hospice. “How can anyone say no to such a worthwhile cause? We have to support them because God forbid it could be one of us needing a hospice one day.” She continued, “I love that the Henley College are getting involved, and that young people are involved in the upcycling of old clothes, shoes, and handbags. It’s a great chance to get involved with the community as well.” Angie also added, “I love charity shops; it’s just a shame that they are the only ones who can afford to be on the Henley high street.”
Though it may be another charity shop on Duke Street, Thames Hospice offers a stylish shopping experience to challenge the mold. Now open to donations, they would welcome volunteers to help with their valuable work.