The Beehive is a second-hand clothing boutique run by Ashford Vineyard, with the simple aim of making women feel beautiful; valued and that they matter. We chatted to Becca, Beehive Manager to find out about the Beehive story!
“Our Beehive journey began in October 2017, when we set up a pop-up shop, in the town centre. Little did we know where we would be now!
That month was filled with challenges, laughter and a whole lot of stories of lives being changed – beauty, respect and joy being restored to women in Ashford. We saw hundreds of people through our doors, from paying customers to women who had been referred by local services. Our stock room was always filled to overflowing from generous donations from across the town and beyond.
We have countless stories from that month, but let me share just one. Jessica came into our shop accompanied by her debt advisor. She had not been referred, but the advisor knew that she would find good quality interview clothing at a great price and a warm welcome that she desperately needed. Jessica began to try on a range of clothes all pulled out by our volunteers, each fit like a glove and could have easily been made just for her. The advisor pulled one of our shop leaders aside and said “I know she hasn’t been referred, but she really doesn’t have much money, I wondered if you’d be able to give her a discount?” to which our shop leader replied, “No… we can’t… but we can give them to her for free.”
The next day we received a message from the debt advisor saying this: “So good to meet you today. Jessica and I are overwhelmed by the generosity and love you shared with her. When I picked her up earlier this lunchtime, she was so sad, negative and lonely. But now she is happy and full of positivity.” The person who walked into the Beehive that day was not the person who left; full of confidence, joy and a bounce in her step. Jessica went on to wear our Beehive clothing to an interview just a few days later, which she got, and is now in full-time employment. We have met Jessica several times since, and every time, the difference is huge.
October 2017 really was the beginning of great things. In the summer of 2018, we ran a summer two-day pop-up to free up some storage space. We had too many people through the door to even count, including an array of referrals.
After the two day pop-up, we knew without a shadow of a doubt, that The Beehive was coming back, permanently. The team all agreed that our dream location would be the old Merchant Chandler building in the heart of Ashford town centre. We knew it was unrealistic – it was occupied and there was no reason to suspect that it ever would-not be. And apart from anything else, we were money-less and dreaming way too big.
But it didn’t take long for us to get a phone call that would change our Beehive lives forever. Webbo – our loveable Radio Ashford friend, who has been one of our greatest cheerleaders along the way, told us that there was going to be a space in the building where Radio Ashford lived. He wondered if we’d like to make the Beehive permanent in that building: the old Merchant Chandler building. Needless to say, many a tear was shed, as we looked back on our dream, and how far fetched it had felt. But thankfully, we knew that God had a plan, and was going to come through on it, despite our inability to believe it was going to happen! On 23rd November 2018, 2 North Street opened its doors, and The Beehive became permanent.
The Beehive was never designed to be one thing, in one shop. It was always going to be multifaceted and full of life. An ever buzzing place, creating spaces for people to thrive. Our dream for The Beehive always included being a place where some volunteers were trained up and sent out into employment. Where skills could be taught, and confidence nurtured. We have had many success stories of volunteer’s being raised up, loved and valued, The Beehive becoming a place of safety in amongst life’s hardships, a family where you can be yourself, and receive the support you need to become the best version of yourself that you could be.
It has been an amazing and challenging first year. We have over 45 volunteers who are on our shop floor front and centre, as well as the ones working tirelessly behind the scenes. We have celebrated with our whole hearts, as four of our volunteers have gone on to find employment after volunteering with us. We’ve seen many people come through our doors; to shop, to eat cake, to build friendships or simply just to find refuge. We’ve given away over £1200 worth of clothes, but the transformation of lives has been priceless.
Melissa arrived in our shop for a referral; she suffered from anxiety, was jobless, depressed and struggling with having put on weight in the time she had been out of work. She could not see past her body size. After her appointment that day, she was a different person. She came back a week later, and spoke to one of our shop leaders and told the story of how life had changed since that day. Our volunteer said that she would never have known that Melissa struggled with anxiety and depression. She was dressed from head to toe in Beehive clothes, including accessories, and the biggest smile. Her anxiety had been so crippling that she hadn’t been able to look for work in a year. Since that day, she went to an interview and got the job, she started to lose weight healthily, taking pride in her body and feeling beautiful for the first time.
Melissa is one of many who return on a regular basis, who have found a space to thrive here. Who have felt the physical relief of walking through those doors.
The Beehive is more than a shop, it’s a home.”