‘Dearly Preloved’ church-run charity shop opens in Prestbury

Published: Monday July 1, 2024

Dearly Preloved charity shop opening dayAn unused shop on the Prestbury high street in Cheltenham presented vicar Nick Bromfield with an exciting opportunity.

Nick, who is Team Rector of North Cheltenham and member of Prestbury PCC, was walking down the high street around June of last year when he came across the former Prestbury Chemist shop that was sitting vacant: “I thought that the church could use it as a charity shop and parish hub,” he recalled. A conversation with Churchwarden Stewart Wright revealed both of them had been thinking on the same lines.

By early this year, renovations were underway, leading to the grand opening of ‘Dearly Preloved’ at the end of May. The event was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with BBC Points West’s Steve Knibbs, the Gloucestershire reporter, doing the honours.

Located opposite the popular new high street café, Penny Blacks, and just down the road from the King’s Arms gastro pub, Dearly Preloved welcomes donations of all kinds. So far, it has been designer women’s wear, men’s shoes, and even Harry Potter first edition books. “We have seen some really high-priced items being donated. We often have to search online to determine their worth, people have been incredibly generous”, Nick said.

The shop’s income supports Prestbury parish’s service revenues, including the PCC and the working teams within the parish: “Running the Prestbury part of the North Cheltenham team alone costs £250,000 a year, with the annual Prestbury parish share and the parish’s annual running costs. The charity shop will be a very helpful contribution to the parish,” Nick said.

If the proposed business model proves successful, proceeds will also benefit local and national charities.

Open from Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 4.30pm, daily operations are managed by a dedicated volunteer team of over 25 people, supported by a full-time appointed supervisor and an unpaid manager to oversee logistics.

The shop is actively seeking more volunteers to join the team.

“There’s a strong social element to working at the shop as well as gaining work experience,” Nick noted. “I’ve seen friendships developing between the volunteers since it opened.”

As well as being a charity shop, the site has been thoughtfully divided across three floors to accommodate other uses of the space. The ground floor houses Dearly Preloved, while the first floor is dedicated to the North Cheltenham team office. The second floor offers office space for self-employed individuals.

“This is a God-given opportunity to demonstrate our faith in action,” Nick remarked. “The parish aims to engage with the community and have an outward reach, and Dearly Preloved reflects this. For a while the parish have wanted to physically extend outwards too and not restrict ourselves to the church building.”

Nick creatively came up with the charity shop name himself: “A few years ago, as a joke, I used to start the Prestbury PCC meetings with ‘Dearly Beloved’ from the Book of Common Prayer, of course, and I found that it always put conversations to a stop. So, the phrase has stuck with me. It’s turned into a useful source of inspiration for this retail venture, probably not envisaged back in 1662.”

Looking ahead, plans are in place for an autumn and winter launch in September to promote warmer clothing, complete with preview evenings for the clothes to be modelled and displayed. “If we could get any of the parishioners to model the outfits we have got on the runway, that would be a bonus,” Nick joked. “But twice last week the volunteers and my children tried to sell me and not the clothes,” he added, tongue in cheek.


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