If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember classic TV shows like ‘Open All Hours’ and ‘Are You Being Served?’. In many respects those two shows represented the extremes of the time – the corner shop and the high street department store. Convenience and familiarity vs abundance and overt customer service – although in the TV shows you’d say that Arkwright was more often than not over familiar with his customers while Mrs. Slocombe would offer a little too much overt customer service!
But both existed in a certain form of harmony, for a while at least.
If I think back hard enough to the local convenience stores framed by my walk to school, I can picture Arthur’s sweet shop and Joe Woodruff’s green grocers – names I’ll never forget. But while the many of the shop names now escape my memory, I can still smell the sweetness of the corner bakery and the blended aroma of hardwood floors and oily tools at the over stocked hardware store. I will admit – as I’m sure many of you will – that as a kid I’d occasionally try and pinch a sneaky ‘Refresher’ from Arthur’s sweet shop – but you could back then, right?
Familiarity and convenience – I can still picture some of the shop keepers faces to this day over 40 years on, especially that of the dear old local jeweler. A heavy-set fella whose daughter would always fetch him from the back to come and look at an old watch or necklace that needed fixing. “Give me a couple of days and I’ll have it fixed” – and he would, and he’d knock off a few pence for being local.
Sadly, most of those shops are now gone, replaced by supermarkets, pound stores and fast-food joints. But we get our convenience in other ways now – through online shopping. Amazon has created its own level of familiarity and convenience, which we can’t deny, we all depend on these days. But in 40 years from now will our kids remember the friendly face of Amazon?
Luckily there are some online stores that have figured out that a friendly face can be combined with 21stCentury convenience. Yes, I’m referring to the Bees Knees British Imports of course! Co-founder Lucinda, along with Donna and Trish, works tirelessly to bring that old Arkwright spirit to your online shopping experience (although some would say – not me of course – that Mrs. Slocombe would be more apt (Lucinda’s edit: Tony is very cheeky). Through their many online posts and personal communications with customers, Lucinda aims to bring the familiarity of the local store to you online.
But wait – there’s more. What if there was a physical Bees Knees Store! One that you could walk in to (avec mask of course)! Look around! Buy things! Talk to the ladies themselves!!
Well now you can – if you live in the US that is!!!! The Bees Knees British Imports opened a pop-up store from October 17th for 3 months in West Concord MA. In fact, West Concord is one of the few places where you can find much of what I and many of us experienced as kids – real shops with familiar faces. If you do visit the Bees Knees store you’ll find across the street the treasure trove that is the ‘5 & 10’, the deliciously creamy ice creams from ‘Reason’s to be Cheerful’ and the ‘Joe Woodruff’s of West Concord’ – Debra’s Grocery store. There’s even a cobbler down the road.
We can all look back through rose-tinted glasses to better times – and for sure we don’t have to look too far back for better times than we’re all experiencing today. Be it online or in person the Bees Knees strives to shroud the convenience of today with familiarity of yesterday.
From The Bee’s Knees ladies: We could not have expected the wonderfully warm welcome we have received in West Concord. Thank you to everyone for that. These photos show some of our wonderful neighbors in West Concord.
However, we do need a bit more space so our last day in West Concord will be January 8th. You will then be able to find us just down the road in West Acton village!