An evolution that includes flowers, gifts, greetings cards and upcycled furniture has set Flowers ‘n’ Things apart in Spalding town centre.
Opened by Hazel Pennington and her daughter Jane Fletcher in 1981, what was a small florist has gradually turned into a place of discovery for the whole family.
We’ve diversified quite a bit since that time (1981) and after moving across Red Lion Street, we’ve expanded as space became availableAnna Avery, Flowers ‘n’ Things, Red Lion Street, Spalding
There is even room for workshops in flower arranging, vintage paint techniques, creative upcycling, sugar craft and floristry, all overseen by Jane, her sister Anna Avery and a team of about 20 full and part-time staff.
Anna said: “Flowers are the one thing we’ve stuck with since my mum and sister started here in 1981.
“But we’ve diversified quite a bit since that time and after moving across Red Lion Street, into a bigger premises, we’ve expanded as space became available.
“When Mum retired, we expanded our giftware section in a much bigger way to include greetings cards and other things.
“Then we opened the coffee shop in 2004 and called it Pennington’s as a massive social change was taking place where people who went out shopping wanted to eat as well.
“But we never envisaged the coffee shop turning into something special until people wanted us to serve lunches as well.
“People want to make their visit to Flowers ’n’ Things a nice experience, especially when they have children with them.
“That’s what brings people into the shop in its own right.”
Depending on which customer you speak to, Flowers ’n’ Things is either a gifts and cards shop, florists, coffee shop, arts and crafts workshop or even an upcycled furniture store which goes by the name Pearl and Ruby.
Anna said: “In 2015, some space became available at our shop and we were going to rent it out.
“But we wanted something that had the right look to attract a certain kind of customer so we decided to fill the space ourselves with furniture upcycling, vintage and pre-loved furniture.
“Anyone looking for a high street coffee will want individual, old-fashioned customer service.
“But whilst a lot of the things we do can be found on the internet, you can’t get a cup of coffee brought to you by a computer.”
Anna and Jane’s willingness to innovate and experiment reached another point in July 2014 when the sisters created a Saturday flea market in Red Lion Street.
The aim behind it was to encourage traders in vintage craft, jewellery, clothing and toys to bring new shoppers into Spalding.
Speaking before the flea market’s launch three years ago, Anna said: “We’re really lucky to be a market town, but perhaps we need to create a bit more interest.
“It would be nice to have a few more stalls along the lines of a traditional flea market, with people selling items like bric-a-brac, antiques, toys and records.
“Just by having a few traders down our street, people who would like to have a go might find it more appealing so we are very keen to make it work.”
At the same time, Anna and Jane spotted the opportunity for their Pearl and Ruby store to make its mark in Spalding.
But Anna said: ”We’re not a destination shop that people from long distances make a special trip to come to.
“People come for the experience and inspiration of finding something they want which is why we’re busy all week.
“We do have a lot of customers who tell us that they have come from Peterborough or Boston because of the individuality of our service.
“For example, we’ve were painting furniture here for a long time and when we brought in a new brand of vintage paint to use, we decided to run courses as well so that people could come and spend a day learning how to use the paint.
“We’ve always loved giving new life to things and the craft courses are a way of bringing people into the shop to do what they can’t do at home.”
Visitors to Flowers ’ n’ Things have the assurance of knowing that either Anna Avery or Jane Fletcher will be there to welcome them.
The sisters have a strict policy of ensuring that at least one of them is always there, with plenty of support from their hard-working staff.
Anna said: “Most of them have been with us for a long time and some of the staff have never worked anywhere else.
“Flowers ’n’ Things is part of Spalding and if it wasn’t here, it would be missed because it would leave a massive hole.”