Cwmbran gift shop Cane & Able is to close as the owner is retiring. Meryl Evans is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement after running the business for 34 years.
Cwmbran Life visited Meryl two days after she announced her news on Facebook. The post attracted hundreds of comments from her loyal customers.
Cane & Able was set up in 1987 by Meryl and her husband Lawrence, who passed away in 2017.
Meryl, 60, said: “My husband was made redundant three times in two years because he was in the electronics industry. He started photography because he was a keen photographer so he set up a photography studio. And it wasn’t enough so to supplement that we started doing basketware as a party plan, like Tupperware. We did that for a while and then decided we wanted to move into a premises which was in Pontnewydd and then we’ve just grown and moved around the town into better positions each time.
“Cwmbran Shopping have been very good to us. They’ve supported us being an independent all the way through especially through Covid now. It’s difficult but the decision was made before Covid that I would be finishing in March just gone. But with four months lockdown, this is why we are staying on a bit at this end.”
“My body was saying ‘you’ve had enough because of the arthritis aches and pains’. My husband Lawrence did half of the work and since he’s gone I’m doing all of it so even if I’m not in the shop I’m at home doing bits, paperwork and it’s just got too much. It’s nearly four years since I lost him so it’s been a tough four years. I had a big birthday in January in lockdown so I made the decision. It’s not quite the same without him, we built it from nothing.
“The girls (staff in the shop ) have been fantastic. Three of them have been with me more than ten years, two fifteen, one ten, and one only two. I couldn’t have done it without them when he passed away.
“You never really switch off from it. When there was two of us, it wasn’t so bad. But I never switch off from it now.”
She couldn’t believe the number of messages on the shop’s Facebook post.
“I had a lump in my throat”
“I had a lump in my throat because you don’t realise you affect so many people’s lives just sorting out a present for them. It was quite emotional. I don’t know what the last couple of days are going to be like. We’ve already had gifts, flowers, chocolates and biscuits from customers. It’s lovely.
“People were saying ‘I used to come in with my mum, when I was little and bought Beanie Babies, and now I’m coming in with my own child buying bath bombs’. So that’s three generations.
“The plan (to close) was the second week in June. The way it’s going at the moment it may be earlier as as soon as we sell out, we sell out. If we’ve got nothing to sell there is no point opening the door.”
The half-price sale saw a socially distanced queue outside the shop all day Friday and Saturday.
Meryl said: “It’s taken us by surprise. I can’t believe it. The amount of people. We were not expecting it.
“When you are in a little shop we speak to customers a lot. It’s not just pick up, pay and go. You hear about their families A gentleman rang me this morning. Him and his wife used to come regularly from Cardiff to here. He lost her about two years ago. He rang this morning to just wish us luck. There is lovely, lovely customers we’ve got. We have shared their ups and downs with them. We’ve been in tears ourselves sometimes.”
Meryl’s retirement plans
“I used to do a lot of flower arranging and wedding flowers. It’s now just a hobby but I’ve not been able to follow it through. I’m a member of Pontypool Floral Art but I’ve had to say ‘no’ to lots of things because I’ve been busy working. So as soon as Covid is over we can get back as a group together. There is trips and competitions and things. I love my garden. I’ve got quite a nice sized garden but it’s not well kept as I don’t have time.
“I like doing up old furniture. I’ve got a few pieces in the garage ready. So I’m going to be occupied.”
“I’ll pop it by for you”
During our chat Meryl took a phone call from a customer who wanted to buy a cake topper. I saw the sort of customer service you don’t get online. Meryl grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled the name ‘Karen’. She told the customer the good news that the £37 item would only cost £18.50 and she would hold it until the end of Monday ready for collection.
The item was taken off the shelf and into the back office and the customer told: “I will pop it by for you.”