FURNITURE upcycle shop Top Drawer aims to become a not-for-profit business after its existing service provider Stonham Housing Association said it planned to pull out of Swindon.
Top Drawer, based in Sussex Square, Walcot, sells high-quality second-hand furniture at a low-budget price and is run almost entirely by volunteers, but needs public help to keep going.
Stonham Housing Association plans to withdraw its Top Drawer service from Swindon by the end of March because it can no longer afford the rent, but now the voluntary leaders of the charity are proposing to continue the work on their own.
On Monday they put a proposal to Swindon Council’s Property Services department to take over the lease of the hall in Sussex Square from Stonham Housing Association and continue to keep Top Drawer operational, at least until the Sussex Square reconstruction begins in late 2017.
Stephen Pickering, who leads the volunteers at Top Drawer, said: “Top Drawer has for some time been a viable business in its own right, so when we heard that Stonham were going we thought we’d speak to the council to see if we can stay in the hall.
“We are very concerned about this because a lot of people in the area rely on us. What we offer is top quality furniture at a good price and last year we provided more than 100 families with furniture – many had been homeless. We’ve also helped people with finding work in the area.
“We want to keep on serving the community and stay where we are, but without the support of the council we might not be able to.”
As well as no longer being able to afford the rent, Stonham said it could not sustain the service.
James Wadlow, home group head of client services at Stonham Housing Association, said: “We’ve run our Top Drawer service in Swindon for a number of years, taking donations of old furniture and refurbishing them for sale at a minimal cost to people on low incomes.
“We’re a not-for-profit organisation with charitable status and the service has always managed to break even. However, it has now started to run at a loss which we can’t sustain.
“Negotiations with Swindon Council to lower our rent were unsuccessful and with no other sources of funding available we’ve been left with no option other than to close the service.”
A spokesman for the council said: “We will of course look closely at what Top Drawer are proposing, but this is at an early stage and we haven’t reached a conclusion on what the options, if any, might be.”
Top Drawer is always eager to hear from volunteers to help run the shop, particularly van drivers.
To find out more about Top Drawer and how you can volunteer, call 01793 536613.