“I hate charity shops!” says my friend as we begin a tour of the new city’s charity retail units. Welcome to Wrex-ham as the Americans say.
- First on the list is the Wales Air Ambulance shop on Henblas street, where I stop to admire the Toby Jug display in the window. The autobiography section includes books by Fern Briton, Aled Jones, Lynda Bellingham (2 copies) Wogan and Ron Manager. I pick up “The Richard and Judy story” attracted by the 95p price tag and then 2 CDs- “Moods Orchestral” (awful) and a compilation of piano led pop/rock songs, worth it for some of the songs. The bill comes to £4.50 with the R+J book (written by GB news fav Carole Malone) priced at £1.50 despite a 95p sticker on the front. A good shop and cause to begin the tour: since its inception in 2001 the Charity has undertaken over 41,000 missions and needs £8 million a year to run their life saving operations. “Do Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan still recognise themselves?” asks Carole ominously, in 1996.
- “Turning concern into action” is the motto of St Vincents on Hope street. The atmosphere on the street is upbeat with 2 preachers smiling and giving out leaflets, as they compete with an emo busker sitting cross legged and playing Nirvana on his guitar. I give him a pound and then go in to browse the Bric-a-brac . Founded in 1844 the St Vincent de Paul Society is part of an international Christian voluntary network dedicated to tackling poverty in all its forms by providing practical assistance to people in need. Inside, freedom lovers would have delighted at a copy of the magna carta in a tube (£10). I settle on a novel which will look good on the shelf/floor and a book about football scouts (Christmas present). Two books for £1.50- who needs Amazon? Outside the preacher drops a pocketful of change into the busker’s case, but the busker doesn’t appreciate being given a GOD IS SPEAKING flyer and starts angrily shouting. “Take em back lad! You’re wasting paper!” I wish I hadn’t given him a pound now.
- Number 3 on the itinerary is Mencap Cymru, the charity supports people with learning disabilities and has a tasteful tribute to the Queen in the window (items not for sale). On a previous visit to this store I had a banterful exchange with a member of staff who jokingly told me that I was a “weird man” for buying a Charles and Camilla plate. We all laughed! No purchases this time.
- The halfway point takes us to Cats Protection on Lord Street, in the shadow of the iconic miners statue. It was on my Lego list at one point, but I could never work out how to do the arches. The shop has a range of cat themed merchandise alongside the usual fare. I resist buying a plate with the Queen’s face on it.
- British Heart Foundation, Egerton street boasts the Complete Dad’s Army on DVD ( 27 volumes although missing volumes 26 and 21). It’s quiet in here and my feet are flagging. Something special was needed…
- Jackson’s Animal Rescue provides the salvation. “All dogs welcome if humans are well behaved” jokes the sign on the door where we are warmly greeted by 3 friendly staff. The walls are decorated with 3 artistic prints of Marilyn Monroe and in the corner, I spy the cupboard containing the valuable and unusual items, a common feature found in many charity shops. There is a framed signed photo of the man who once called David Cameron a twat live on TV, noted actor of stage and screen Danny Dyer- for just £4. An essential purchase. “I thought we’d never sell that!” says the cheerful member of staff. She also insists I take a painting of the Queen Vic from Eastenders which was sitting behind Danny. “You could have painted better than that!” The banter is off the scale as the brilliant staff wrap my purchases in a yellow bag. One I will return to! Honourable mentions to 2 other charity shops nearby: British Heart Foundation Home and Salvation Army.
- Sense on Regent Street is a chilled explore with laid back music playing and plenty of browsing space. The charity help people with deafblindness or complex disabilities to communicate, experience the world and fulfil their potential. There are 3 copies of Gladiator on DVD and 2 of American Beauty. Purchase here, for £1: Devil (2010) on DVD, still factory sealed. Someone bought that once and never ever opened it- the melancholy cuts into me.
- Sue Ryder on Island Green is another of the city’s premium charity offerings. The charity which supports the bereaved as well as offering palliative and neurological support to those in need, has a superstore here where everything is £3 or less. A table at the entrance grieves the Queen, the charity’s patron since 1993. Here I purchase an art print of the rows of Chester and a Charles and Diana plate (Christmas present #2). The lovely lady on the till notes that Waltons the jewellers (pictured in the art) have now closed and champions Chester: “I quite often get the bus up to Chester. I really like it!” She carefully boxes the celebration plate for me. Positive
- Nightingales over 2 floors is another super charity store housed in the former Boots store on Regent Street. Nightingale House Hospice provides services for individuals and their families living within the local area who are living with a diagnosis of a progressive and/or life-limiting illness. The shop is busy across its many departments, electricals, glassware and ornaments (including 2 pigs embracing), beds and furniture. It even has its own cafe upstairs. A vast graveyard of physical media upstairs is tastefully arranged with shelves full of books. Easy to lose yourself here. No purchases but I pick up a leaflet for the charity’s new meal service- cooked by chefs at Caffi Cwtch just outside the city centre.
- Last on the list is Barnardo’s Pop Up on Eagles Meadow. A sad sign of the times that charity shops now occupy prime retail space, but a very common sight across the land. The big looming cavernous coffin of Debenhams looms over a reminder that something has gone very wrong in the world. Still, good news that the shopping centre has new additions in The Fragrance Shop and Your Home Outlet. The charity shop is another cavern to explore, but all I can find is a pack of essential black underpants (new). I notice a Manekin holding a gold figure in its outstretched hand. What can it mean?? A feral youth flicking ash onto me from the upper balcony brings the day to an abrupt end.
For the Chester leg of the tour see : https://thechesterblog.com/2022/07/26/the-chester-charity-shop-tour/