I first fell in love with the high street when I bought a little one bedroom flat in Warminster nearly 11 years ago. I was in the Army at the time, so could only come back to it at weekends, but absolutely loved that I could stroll into the town and complete all the essentials, and some of the un-essentials too. There was a post office, a bakery, a choice of grocery stores, a butcher, a quirky hardware store and a beautiful independent gift shop where I could buy my favourite candle when I ran out. I had no idea how lucky I was.
As my time in the Army started to come to an end I began to educate myself more about local economy, understanding how important small businesses and the social community a thriving high street fosters, truly is. I subsequently went on to become part of the community when I opened Iris and Olive in 2020. On the back of pandemics, cost of living crisis, wars and poor economic growth, we somehow survived. It breaks my heart that others were not so lucky.
The high street can be a fickle mistress; in times of lockdown people confined to small bouts of freedom helped business classed as essential and destroyed others that were not. Somehow we held on, and to this day my gratitude to every single soul who shopped with us will never end. Becoming more aware than ever what a privilege it was to hold a physical presence on the high street, my husband and I endeavoured to return the kindness to the community. We have held collections for clothing and items for the Afghan and Ukrainian refugees from our shop. We have given profits to charities and donations to local causes. All of this only possible because of the people that shopped small and supported local.
Now as a mother, I see beautiful illustrations of thriving high streets reflected back to me in my daughters books. The Tiger who came to Tea, paints a beautiful image of a place of refuge, for a family to have a cosy impromptu meal. Another favourite children's book is The High Street by Alice Melvin, in which a girl completes all her shopping for the most fantastical things on her high street. Soaring costs, poorly made cheap alternatives and a lack of local support all threaten these beautiful businesses.
We are so so grateful for every order, review and recommendation. Because of you our shop has grown, we have been able to expand our impact on the local community and become active members to help force positive growth and change in the town. We are working on a few things now, Matt in the Chamber of Commerce and a few we can't talk about just yet.
Warminster always feels like it is on the edge of something great, harvesting so much potential from the wonderful people who live here. Although a struggle in the ever changing landscape, shopkeeping has bought friendships and fulfillment that I didn't know possible. The sanctuary that shops have created for the lonely, the lost or the creative can not be duplicated by online giants. The cafes and craft shops, the local newsagent that gives your child their first Saturday job and the hardware store that your dad used to shop at will always need continued support and custom. This Valentine's day fall back in love with your high street. If you love something shout about it. If you don't want to lose it, then use it.