This is a new Do you Remember series. You’re invited to share your fond memories of Chandler’s Ford.
Is there a particular shop, a person, or a service that you remember and want to share?
Today I start off this series with my favourite gift shop, The Precinct Gift Centre, which closed in February 2006.
The Precinct Gift Centre was a precious gift shop at the Central Precinct of Chandler’s Ford. I wrote about the shop last Christmas and showed you a happy picture of the shop owners, Brian and Suzette Matthews.
Both Brian and Suzette ran the shop for 16 years, but sadly the lovely shop closed in February 2006, as Brian retired at the age of 76.
Friends, especially those at the Central Precinct, were all sad to see them go.
The Precinct Gift Centre was more than just a gift shop. It was a friendly social and help centre in the community.
Brian and Suzette always gave you a warm welcome, treated you like a good friend, asked about your family and pets, and sat you down when you had tears.
It’s unusual to have a team of TV crew walking into your shop. On the 20th of February in 2004, ITV’s news presenter Fred Dinenage surprised Brian and Suzette by his visit.
He awarded them a “Good Neighbours” award and later shared the news with the nation.
Brian and Suzette were nominated by their friend and neighbour, Pat Haylor of Gabrielle’s Dress Agency.
Brian and Suzette were good neighbours to me indeed. Twelve years ago, every time I visited their shop with my toddler, they made us feel very welcome and chatted to us a lot (Yes, Brian could be very chatty even with a baby).
Brian was always so happy. He entertained my toddler and taught him how to clap hands to cheer for The Saints.
I’ve met Brian and Suzette many times in Chandler’s Ford since their retirement. When I met Brian a few months ago, he still remembered the good time we had.
Brian told me that he tried to “cheer up the little lad” by teaching him how to clap hands to cheer for The Saints, as my son was not well.
Brian’s smiles and Suzette’s kindness meant a lot to me as I was a new mother and a foreigner who had just arrived in Chandler’s Ford.
Chandler’s Ford was quite a lonely place and it took me years to settle. At Brian and Suzette’s Precinct Gift Centre, I found friendship, warmth and acceptance in the little shop.
Suzette also told me that it was not just me, but quite a lot of people would pop in to their shop regularly for a chat and to ask for help. Once a young girl went to chat to them, sobbing, after she had returned from a grandparent’s funeral.
This “Aladdin’s Cave” in Chandler’s Ford was a place for comfort.
Sometimes they had to delay closing the shop as people were still in the shop sharing their problems with them.
Brian and Suzette always found the time to help people sort out their problems, and listen to them.
Both Brian and Suzette lent me their precious album about the history of their gift shop.
Today, let’s look back at these photos and remind us of the precious 16 years that Brian and Suzette had brought to me, to you, and the whole of Chandler’s Ford community.
Thank you Brian and Suzette for your friendship and support, and your beautiful little shop in Chandler’s Ford.
1997: In memory of Princess Diana.
September 1999: Pam’s retirement. Pam worked in the shop for 9 years.
Let’s remind ourselves what Brian and Suzette have taught us:
“Most important of all, please always try to ‘be nice to each other’ as we have encouraged in our own small way.”
By Brian and Suzette Matthews, from the Precinct Gift Shop, Chandler’s Ford
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