What's cooking at Swirly Whirlys in Nantwich?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 May 2014 | UPDATED: 23:03 23 October 2015
Walk past St Luke's Hospice shop in Nantwich town centre and you could think it was just a café, but Swirly Whirlys offers so much more
Charity and hospice shops are often hindered by the perception of them as boring, bleak and full of tatty items that most people just don’t want to buy.
However, Nantwich town centre boasts a hospice shop with a difference. Swirly Whirlys want to change the charity shop image and since opening their doors in October 2012, they have done just that.
Nestled in the middle of Pillory Street, the narrow three storey building hosts a treasure trove of goods that most vintage stores would covet. Walking by you could mistake the store, which raises money for St Luke’s Hospice, as just a café, but Swirly Whirlys is much more than that.
Rachel Boulton-Jones, 40, and Helen Giordano, 44, are two part-time volunteers at Swirly Whirlys. They have been with the store from the outset.
‘It costs around £6,500 a day to run the hospice. It’s our goal here to raise as much funds to contribute towards that. The name stemmed from a competition where children could send ideas in. St Luke’s have eight other shops, but they’re ‘normal’ - we’re unique!’ said Rachel.
So what exactly makes Swirly Whirlys unique? On the ground floor there’s a crêperie and coffee shop, where they serve cakes and sandwiches as well as Cheshire Farm ice-cream.
‘We had a chef from the hospice teach us how to make the crepes. We all just muck in and have a go!’ said Helen. Go up a floor and you’ll find additional vintage seating for the café and a selection of gifts from toys to crockery on sale.There’s also a seating area for children’s craft parties. Take a walk to the third floor and visit the ‘top deck of treasures’, a room filled with wonderful vintage items from clothing to vinyl. When the weather is nice you can take a seat in the garden, complete with mural painted by a hospice volunteer.
Helen said: ‘Originally, we were very child-orientated and our third floor was the party and craft room. However they became very popular and we had to move this down to the second floor which resulted in an empty room. To make use of the space we transformed this into our vintage room, providing us with another outlet.’
Swirly Whirlys has raised over £25,000 since opening, and alongside two other coffee shops, St Luke’s hope to make around £85,000 for patient care in 2014 from these ventures.
‘The trouble is when people hear the word ‘hospice’, they think of death. We want to change that perception to health and life,’ said Claire Langston, Director of Income Generation at St Luke’s. ‘Swirlys is bright and quirky. It’s our window into the community and it enables us to spread the word about our work.’
Swirly Whirlys has around 15 volunteers. ‘In summer we have quite a lot of younger people wanting to volunteer. They’re brilliant. Everyone is touched in some way by St Luke’s – whether it’s their grandparents or just wanting to give something back to those less fortunate,’ said Rachel. ‘The support from the older generation is great,’ Helen added. ‘We even have former patients volunteering.’
Rachel and Helen have retail experience but have never previously volunteered. ‘When we heard about Swirlys opening, we left our jobs at Laura Ashley and began our roles here,’ said Helen. You can certainly see inspiration from their former career within Swirlys, with its quintessentially British feel and vintage décor.
‘Where Swirlys is today is down to Rachel and Helen,’ said Steven Holmes, St Luke’s Retail Operations Manager. ‘It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us and a lot has changed since opening. We’ve grown as a store and the excellent vintage style is 100% a result of them.’
The vintage items sold at Swirly Whirlys are either sourced from donations or a vintage warehouse in Winsford. ‘I love vintage, so it’s great for me to be able to go to the warehouse and pick certain items to sell at the store. The profit margin on buying vintage things is great so it’s a win-win situation for us,’ said Rachel.
Swirlys also received furniture from the warehouse or via donations. Volunteers refurbished these items to fit in with the vintage styling. Jane Barnes lives in Willaston and volunteers once a week. She helped paint some of the chairs before the store opened: ‘I found a flyer in my letterbox telling me about St Luke’s lottery. I rang up for more information and found myself asking about how to volunteer! I have lots of time to spare as I’m retired, and I felt I could utilise it better. I enjoy coming here.’
Also in agreement is Roger Hinde, 62, who volunteers twice a week: ‘Three and a half years ago I was touch and go with pretty aggressive cancer. After I’d had the all clear, I couldn’t do the work that I was doing before. Coming here means I can help those who are less fortunate, and that’s a good ethos for me. Colour and light is important in our lives, and that’s how I saw Swirly Whirlys.’