This weekend, the 2nd of March, marks the very exciting grand opening of our parish shop, ‘Austin Friars’ Shop’.
As the imminent re-opening approaches, we took a moment to speak to Georgie, our Shop Manager volunteer, to find out more about what the shop has in store. From the planning to the purchasing of products, the wider vision of the shop, and how you might be able to volunteer for us in the future, this article will hope to outline a taste of what you can expect. In the weeks leading up to its opening, the team at Austin Friars’ Shop have aimed to engage with all our parishioners, emphasising the importance we have placed on broadening and diversifying our range of products and striving to serve our whole community through the items we sell.
Georgie, would you like to introduce yourself?
Hello all, my name is Georgie and I am 23 years old. Between graduating from the University of Exeter in the summer to commencing a full-time job with the BBC in April, over the course of a few months I have taken on the voluntary role of Shop Manager, and delighted in putting my time to good use and working towards such a lovely cause. Since re-settling at home after university I have taken on a greater personal responsibility towards my faith and it therefore became increasingly important to me to become an active member of the parish community. Since beginning here at St Augustine’s church, I have been met with such warmth and welcome it has been an absolute pleasure to help organise the opening of Austin Friars’ Shop and I hope to encourage others who think “I can do that!” to get involved too.
What inspired the name ‘Austin Friars’ Shop’?
The name Austin Friars’ Shop was chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly (and probably least exciting!) is the fact it is practical and easily understood, hopefully leaving limited room for confusion! One of the many beautiful messages that St Augustine teaches us is that community is often where we experience God. Therefore it was important that within the name we promoted the St Augustine’s community, the Augustinian Order, and indicated the shop belonging to the Friars’. This shop name will also allow us, going forward, to promote the Friars’ but also shine a light on Augustinian spirituality and offer a particular window onto the Gospel. Austin Friars’ Shop places no limits on our ambitions, and in the future will allow us to be recognised nationwide!
What is the vision for the shop?
When we were discussing the overall vision of the Austin Friars’ shop it was very important that the shop celebrated the diverse nature of our parish community and offered products that reflected this. For example, one only has to go to the 10.30am mass on Sunday to see the number of families and children who attend, and the exuberance which comes with this! Therefore it was important we had items which would be loved by parents and children alike, so we have endeavoured to purchase these such items: children’s books, bibles, rosaries, jewellery, and gift boxes. Similarly, many parishioners come from around the world so we have looked at buying items from different international communities. For instance, we have beautifully colourful, hand-painted liberation crosses from El Salvador which would make lovely gifts or olive-wood, hand-held crosses from Bethlehem, perfect for your pocket or bag when you need a moment of strength, to hold, or a reminder that you never walk alone.
How did you come to choose the products?
Choosing the right products for our parish shop has been a very important part of the process. With such a wonderful array of ages, occasions and tastes to cater for, we have aimed to get as much input and feedback from our parishioners as possible. This is one of the reasons why we launched our parish shop ‘survey’ so that we could gain a better idea as to which products are highly sought, and those which we may not have considered otherwise. Through this process of market research, there were certainly items which stood out as greatly popular such as rosaries, crosses and children’s gifts. As with any start-up we expect it to be a learning process and would love your support and feedback as to what immediately catches your eye and what you think remains to be added to our collection of products.
What does the future of the Austin Friars’ Shop look like?
A really important factor that was discussed by the whole team a few weeks ago, during the planning stages of re-opening the Austin Friars’ shop, was considering how we could be mindful of our environmental impact with the products we were purchasing. For example, we have endeavoured to source products which are made out of recyclable materials such as our collection of pens and notepads. In addition to this, we have aimed to source items which are made from organic and natural materials, which are more sustainably sourced, and of better quality. With time we also hope to grow our volunteer base whom currently consists of a small dedicated group, inclusive of gifted teenagers and young adults, in addition to parishioners of over 30 years, so please feel free to get in touch if you think the Austin Friars’ Shop would be something you would like to be involved in and we can talk through the responsibility further!
I look forward to meeting you all and I hope you are just as excited about the Austin Friars’ Shop opening as we are.
If you would like to be considered for a voluntary position with Austin Friars’ Shop team, please feel free to contact: email@example.com