I rent a parking space in the Rifles Museum and I’m so fortunate that my work day begins there. Walking through the beautiful Cathedral Close glancing up at the soaring spire, thinking that it has been towering over the working population for nearly 800 years.
The first ten minutes are a well honed routine – getting the till ready, switching on all the lights and lamps, putting out our tree and lowering the blind. I turn the sign to open and go in to battle with our archaic CD player. Treated with respect it will play on repeat all day but if rushed it will refuse to utter a sound. I know that I should update to an ipod and bluetooth speaker but if I’m honest I quite like the daily battle!
We’re now open and ready for business but the mornings often start slowly so there’s time to get on with a few jobs. Emails are usually first on the list but we all know how much time we can spend on admin so if I’m disciplined I’ll quickly skim through for anything that’s urgent and turn to more creative chores.
We constantly update and change our displays and try to dust as we go, working on the principle of dealing with the areas that have become untidy or disjointed first and that way we don’t get a ‘Fourth Bridge’ feeling. Display has become second nature to me. When we first opened we employed a London window dresser who had been with the Casa Pupo shops in the 1960’s. Michael was very particular, everything had to be cleaned and handed to him to place. Nowadays life is more laid back and we take real pleasure from selling pieces out of the window instead of panicking about what he would choose to replace them.
Our Casa Fina team is brilliant and Julie, Anne and Chris share the weekdays with me. 11.00 is generally coffee time and it’s time for a catch up, a chance to point out new stock and often our lovely customers will join in with the chat. Deliveries can arrive at any time and when they come (particularly in October when Christmas stock comes flooding in) we try to get them unpacked as soon as possible so that we can get the boxes out of the way. We hate to hassle and intrude so once we’ve said hello we allow our customers to browse leisurely.
In the summer I escape with my lunch to the tranquil gardens of the Rifles Museum where I can enjoy the silence and solitude away from the bustle of retail. Our afternoons are full of a myriad of jobs, We might be helping a customer to find just the right gift for a special occasion or an accessory for a room they’ve just decorated. We have a large selection of shades and table lamps and are always on hand to help and advise so that people go away with a combination that will transform their interior space.
Our European visitors are also tempted with our gorgeous stock and we’ve parcelled up everything from lamps and shades to delicate teacups. The antique and vintage china and glass is the real USP of Casa Fina. We point out the brown luggage tag labels to our new customers as they indicate that an item isn’t new. People just love the juxtaposition of items; all sharing a strength of quality and design but sometimes crafted 200 years apart.
My last hour is solitary again and often I get the chance to look at social media at this point. We’re active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and it’s time consuming but so rewarding when you get great reactions to what has been posted. Our recent #casafinaflowerwall poll got nearly 200 votes which was incredible.
The end of my day soon approaches. If there are still customers in the shop we’ll remain open and will just crack on with the next job on the list but if we’re empty I’ll cash up, switch off the lights, wind the blind in and turn the sign round. An evening walk back through the close often means I witness young tourists snapping their selfies by the red telephone boxes or groups of schoolkids gathering on the benches. Sometimes there’s a meeting to go to or accounts to work on but if I’m lucky it’s a glass of wine and a chance to put those poor tired feet up for the evening.
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