The End

  Ryepress Shop and gallery in Hastings Old Town

Am I over-dramatising? Well probably, but what the hell. We are having to close down our studio gallery after five years of very hard work and almost no days off for the Painter. It is SO upsetting. In fact, I have started this post several times now, but I get too upset to continue and have to go away and make a cup of tea each time until I get myself together. I know that with each ending comes a new beginning and that we will find another way to make a living/satisfy the creative imperative/fill up our time, but at the moment none of that is really making me feel any better.

It is probably unfortunate for us that the time the commercial space below our flat became available and we jumped right on it (May 2008) was right before the recession hit the UK (January 2009). So the whole time that we have had the gallery it has been more of a struggle than it would have been had we opened it for instance in 2006 or 2004. Having said that, it has managed to not only stay afloat but to provide a basic living for us, to be a studio space for the Painter to work in, and to be an outlet for the dolls and jewellery. Every Christmas up until now it has made enough to carry us through the difficult months of January to March. Not so this year, though. This year everyone shopped online or at the chain stores in the shopping centres. Places like our Hastings High Street, which is full of quirky individual shops, and not a chain store to be found, were pretty much abandoned by the populace who all went off to wave their credit cards in shops selling mass produced goods. I understand the reasons why of course – it’s easier to order online and get goods delivered, the weather has been awful and no-one wants to go out in it, there is an international shortage of disposable income which seems to correlate to a rise in the temptation to buy something generic rather than something special, we are all having trouble paying our mortgage/rent/utilities – and so shopping for pleasure has become something we have rather put to one side, as though it were a bad habit. Numerous reasons. All of which seem to make sense on a superficial level, but on an economic level make for bad, bad news.

You didn’t come into our gallery this Christmas to spend anything more than £15 on some cards. So I didn’t go shopping next door to buy the handbag I wanted to get as a present for my sister. I ordered a cheaper and not-so-lovely one online. I couldn’t afford the fare to go up to town and take my mother out to do her Christmas shopping. She would have spent a fair amount of money in her area, so her local shops have suffered by her doing her shopping through Amazon. In fact, so many of us did not go to our local shops this year that come the early months of 2014 many of these tiny independent businesses will be closing down. Amazon, however, will be going from strength to strength.

So, in your dotage, will you tell your grandchildren stories about when there used to be independent shops, with people who knew their trade well and gave you advice for free and showed you how they made things, or told you the history of the painting you were buying, or stayed open late because you telephoned to say you were coming but were delayed? Will your grandchildren believe you about all this when the only places they can go to shop are large impersonal stores, selling mass produced goods with built in obsolescence? Or Amazon, of course, which by then will quite possibly own the world.

In the future will we all be hiding out in our homes, working from the internet, ordering food and everything else from the web, awaiting deliveries which are brought through the deserted streets to our doors by the few brave souls who still venture outside – The Deliverants?

How very sad – I shall miss shopping.



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12 Responses to The End

  1. Colin says:

    Well said, I think you’ve covered it all.

  2. 😦 Sending you big hugs. I’m so sorry. I’m a local shopper – but apparently I’m an endangered species; a commercial dodo.

  3. Sahm King says:

    Sad, indeed. On the flip side, sounds like a good theme for a book. The Deliverants.

  4. a.h.richards says:

    That’s a very sad tale, and one I wish you didn’t have to tell. I hope 2014 is good to you and that you can start up again. The virtual reality is encroaching everywhere. Not a good thing.

  5. Oh man I am so sorry to hear that 😦 hits close to home since my husband owns a local gallery, it is a scary thing to see all those box stores! And now you can buy fine art on amazon, which is insane. The way we made it work this year was by him stretching himself thin, putting his art out there at several Christmas art bazaars, which was great for business but the kids and I didn’t see much of him all month long because he was working so much. I hope you can pick up the pieces and figure something even better out for 2014, when one door closes, another one opens? 🙂

    • painterswife says:

      I’m glad you have been able to make your gallery pull through – I think things are a little easier over there than here – although the politicians here keep on talking it up – in reality it is just on a downward slide unless you are based in London, which I no longer am. Good luck to you too for 2014 – I think your husband’s gallery looks wonderful and you deserve success!

  6. So sorry not only for you, but for the truth of what you’ve said. I visited so many small shops, vintage shops and boutiques this year as usual and saw many of my favorites gone. That’s sad, I too shall miss that kind of shopping. 😦

  7. PS MacMurray says:

    So sorry. Could the painter teach? Sell his masterpieces through a website (ironic, I know)? As you know and suggest, a closing door leads to an opening door. You are giving me much to think about. I am closing my online store this weekend. I need to simplify, but in truth I prefer selling in local shops. That is a tradition that is rich in color and history and should be allowed to endure. It is part of what makes us a community. In fact, it is probably part of what teaches us how to live in a community. May there be unexpected and wonderful blessings right at your doorstep.

    • painterswife says:

      We do have a website – in fact the Painter had that going for years before the gallery opened – (in fact it is the same age as Google) – if you want to check it out. I agree with you though – online shopping cannot compete with real independent shops in terms of a fun and satisfying experience. I love to go to little shops with friends and explore and treat ourselves – you really can’t do that online! And yes, these little places are absolutely essential to the community. I have just returned from spending Christmas in Surrey (where we were stranded due to bad weather and flooding) to find that two of the local shops have closed whilst we were away. I think the next few months are going to be particularly hard here, whatever spin the politicians try to put on the economy! I hope you do much better across the pond!

  8. So sorry… My favorite quirky toy shop and bookstore here in Philadelphia (US) are going to close in 2014 also for all the same reasons you described. Additionally, the people I shop for want gift cards to big box stores–so even when I want to find that special, creative gift that makes a statement, my relatives essentially want cash to buy mass-produced “stuff.” It’s frustrating for me, but tragic for you. I certainly hope there is a silver lining for you.

  9. I had an online antiques and collectibles shop. Not brick and mortar, but every item was one of a kind, unique. I did well for three years. Then the recession hit. In less than three months, it was over. I guess the real advantage of online was I didn’t have a lease to break, though you pay even for online space, even if somewhat less. The month I didn’t earn enough to cover the costs of remaining open, I folded. I miss the shop and the money that made the difference between never having enough and sometimes, having a little bit extra. In the end, the same economic forces work for and against us, whether in a shop on the street or on a virtual site.

    • painterswife says:

      I’m sure that’s true – but having to pay out for a substantial rent on a bricks and mortar shop has become unsustainable. Am hoping that I can find other ways to earn a crust.

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