And then there were two “Shops for Stur”

Community Chest Boutique and Community Chest Emporium

The Community Chest started life in 2018 as a little shop in Market Cross selling donated goods with all profits being fed back into the town to help keep Sturminster bright and interesting and a great place to live work and visit.  Run by a part-time manager and a wonderful group of volunteers, nobody dreamed what a success it would become.  The shop quickly became too small for the amount of goods donated and manager Cheryl Basten created selling space out of every nook and cranny.  It soon became known for the quality of items available and the friendliness of the volunteers.  The idea that the shop existed for the benefit of the town inspired those donating goods and the expanding team of willing helpers alike.  Locals soon became regular visitors and tourists popped in for a look, tempted by the attractive window displays, and stayed for a lovely chat about the area and the community.

The initiative almost became a victim of its own success when space finally ran out but that didn’t stop our intrepid manager.  Like many small towns, banks in Sturminster shut a few years ago and left empty a number of buildings in the centre of town.  Always looking for ways to grow the business and encourage the growing band of volunteers, Cheryl agreed extremely beneficial terms with the generous landlord of the old Lloyds Bank, Mr John Romans and, as lockdown lifted a little in the summer of 2020, the Community Chest expanded into the bank building.

Sturminster now boasts 2 shops providing fascinating retail options, the profits of both going back into the town, providing support for markets, festivals and initiatives to keep Stur vibrant and attractive.

The Community Chest Boutique, now famous for its window displays, remains at 7 Market Cross, just opposite the Town Museum and nestles between Beads  with a Twist and florist Daisy Delbridge.

It sells very good quality clothes, accessories and some gift items including an amazing array of men’s clothes and especially top end suits and shirts and shoes. Upstairs the Boutique hosts a fabulous vintage section including party frock’s, evening dresses, designer and high end clothing. also vintage and fancy dress– definitely a place to browse!  The Community Chest Emporium at Lloyds Bank building is right in the centre of town and here you will find everything else!  Furniture, bric-a-brac, collectibles, books, CDs, DVDs, games, kitchenalia, children’s toys, soft furnishings etc etc.  A wonderful place to explore, donate and discover.   Local information is available at both premises.

So what are we doing with the money?

To date the charity has used the money for a number of projects aimed at improving the Town and access to its main attractions including:

  1. Running the Town Web Site – The site has over 150 separate business and accommodation providers listed, covers all our events and does all this for free! It already appears on google first page for all searches which include Sturminster Newton. Each month about 5/6000 people visit the site.
  2. Putting “Who’s who in Sturminster” online and in print. “Who’s who” is a traditional listing of service providers in the Town. This year ownership of publishing passed to the charity and we decided to make the information available in print and online. By going to the town web site you can find a listing of all the plumbers, electricians, carpenters and such like that we could find in our Town and surrounds.
  3. Helping put UNITY online. Alas UNITY has now folded. We tried to help by putting the magazine online hoping it might improve their advertising revenues. It didn’t really work.
  4. Helping pay for the new flower troughs. A key aspect of visiting the Town retail offer is the impression it creates. The better the impression the more people visit. Working with Sturbiz and the Council we helped fund the purchase of flower troughs and plantings that you see around the Town centre. I hope you all agree that they have made a big difference to how the retail centre looks?
  5. Supporting the Town Literary festival. The literary festival started with no funds and the charity agreed to stand behind any costs they incurred (within reason). All in all we paid out over £500 to pay for brochures, speakers and similar.
  6. Putting new photos into the bank windows. Another activity aimed at improving the look of the town was to put pictures ithe windows of the then empty bank buildings. Working with Martin Jones we were able to source some great images of the Town. I am pleased to say the feedback we received more than justified the considerable expenditure.