Emmaus Enterprises launches shop and café in Poplar
01 Oct 2014
The Emmaus shop – located at 175 East India Dock Rd, Poplar, E14 0EA – made around £500 in its first two hours of trading, as customers grabbed the quality goods in store, which range from small items of upcycled furniture, to books and household goods, to new end-of-range and second hand donated clothing.
Pedal-powered coffees served by We walk the line, a social enterprise that helps people struggling to find work into self-employment kept customers happy as they relaxed in chairs donated by a chain of hotels.
Ian Darby, who works for Poplar Harca, a social landlords firm based nearby, said: “It was an amazing buzz outside, like people were queuing for Harrods or something. I’ve been volunteering here for the last week, but I work locally and can’t wait to come and sit down and just relax with a book and coffee. There’s nothing like this shop in the area.”
An apprenticeship scheme at the shop will offer participants the chance to gain retail and customer service skills as well as teaching them how to ‘upcycle’ donated items of furniture and clothing. A basement area also offers other charities and groups the opportunity to hold upcycling workshops, with the session taking place on the day of the opening.
Mark O’ Brien, project director, said: “Sometimes the furniture we are donated is a little battered or has seen better days. On Friday a team of local people stripped down some tables that we’d been given and then decorated them in various ways to make them beautiful and original pieces. We intend to hold regular workshops, engaging all members of the community who’d like to learn new skills, meet new people, and exercise their creativity.”
The shop already boasts a strong team of volunteers, keen to express their support for the project:
Zubeda Yeasmin, 24, explained: “The Job Centre is referring people like me, who have been unemployed for a long time. I never really considered retail before because I am not that sure about the world of commerce. But this feels different, we’re already like a family, it’s been very reassuring. I also have ideas for how I’d like to develop certain areas of the shop, including adding a maternity clothes section.”
Esther Aggrekum, 28, a mother of two, a student and a personal shopper at Terminal 5, is also finding time to volunteer at the shop despite her busy life. She said: “I couldn’t miss the green branding when I was walking past. I’m training in health and social care and I love the fact that working here helps my local community and people who have been homeless.”
June Walker, 50, has just come through a battle with breast cancer, and cares for her elderly father as well as her three grown up children who still live at home. She said: “I’ve done every job under the sun in my time, from dinner lady to check out girl, but working here is something that’s just for me. I came in a few weeks ago when the renovations first started and it’s a real pleasure to give something back to the local area.”
The shop is just the first in a series of social enterprises planned by Emmaus in East London.
To find out more about Emmaus East London, just contact Mark on 07903 331 382 or shop manager, Stephanie Gillespie, on 020 7538 1132.