Category Archives: Chester

The sad and empty shell of the former SPCK Christian Bookshop, Chester

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Photo posted on Flickr by majestik_12, Rob Poulson, 27 March 2011:

Former SPCK Bookshop in Chester, 27/03/2011

Former SPCK Bookshop in Chester, 27/03/2011

Sad to see the shop still sitting there like this more than a year after the removals fairies struck back in January 2010…

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Removals Fairies Strike at former SPCK Bookshop, Chester

Phil Groom writes:

We all know about the tooth fairies: you leave your tooth under the pillow, fall asleep, and in the morning your tooth’s gone and there’s sixpence (OK, showing my age…) in its place. In Chester, they have removals fairies, and they’ve paid a visit to the former SPCK bookshop:

Former SPCK Bookshop, Chester: Empty Card Racks Former SPCK Bookshop, Chester: Empty Shelves Former SPCK Bookshop, Chester: More Empty Shelves
Empty shelves in the former SPCK Bookshop, Chester
(Photos taken Thursday January 21st, 2010)

We don’t know exactly when the fairies visited, where they’ve taken the stock or who’s got the sixpence: presumably the Interim Manager, and hopefully he’ll be using it to pay off some of the creditors. Never has the phrase “watch this space” felt more poignant…

I also have it on reliable authority that Wesley Owen Chester is scheduled to close its doors for the last time today, leaving Chester without a Christian bookshop. If you’re the praying kind, please remember Ian Vollands and the rest of the staff team in your prayers.

But perhaps the situation is not as bleak as it might seem? Chester is home to eden.co.uk, the UK’s (and probably Europe’s) biggest online Christian retailer, and they’re involved in discussions with friends and church leaders about the future of Christian retail in the city. If you live in the area and would like to take part in those discussions, you can request membership of the Chester Christian Bookshop facebook discussion group.

Responding to concerns that Eden might be branching out into bricks & mortar retailing, Gareth Mulholland, Head Honcho at Eden, said:

There are lots of creative ideas being floated around. They generally involve collaboration, community and shared ownership – none of them involve Eden.co.uk setting up its own bookshop.

Kudos to Gareth and Eden for taking this initiative.

Thanks as always to our intrepid photographer for the pics.

Disclosure notice: the link to eden.co.uk featured in this post is an affiliate link. If you use it and then proceed to make a purchase, eden will pay a small commission to the UK Christian Bookshops Directory. Thank you.

Changing the Locks: Official Notices as seen in Chester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Worcester

Phil Groom writes:

  • Updated July 11, 2009

Thanks to our intrepid photographers in Chester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Worcester for these snapshots of the official ‘Changing the Locks’ notices (see previous post). Transcripts below the photos.

1. Chester

The locks on this property have been changed...

The locks on this property have been changed...

Notice:
The locks on this property have been changed under the authority of the Interim Manager of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (1119839-1) who was appointed by Order of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, made under S. 18(1)(VII) of the Charities Act 1993 as amended by the Charities Act 2006, on 28 April 2009.

If access is required to the premises please contact Fergus Jack at DTZ on 0207 643 6579

Fergus Jack

DTZ
48 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NL
Tel: +44 (0)20 3296 4494

2. Newcastle-upon-Tyne

… and thanks to yet another intrepid photographer in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Again, transcript below the picture.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Keep Out, by Order of the Interim Manager

Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Keep Out, by Order of the Interim Manager

NOTICE

St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
(Registered no 1119839-1)

8 Ridley Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8JW

Take notice that I, Peter Gotham, was appointed Interim Manager of the Business and Assets of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust by the Charity Commission under case no. 685451 on 28 April 2009.

No entry to this building is permitted without my express authority.

Any enquiries regarding access should be addressed during office hours to:

Fergus Jack

Telephone: 0207 643 6579

P Gotham
Interim Manager
St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust

… and if anyone’s wondering, there is still some stock in the Newcastle shop:

Newcastle Shop, July 2009

Newcastle Shop, July 2009

3. Worcester

Courtesy of Doug Chaplin, aka Clayboy:

Worcester - No entry to this building is permitted...

Worcester - No entry to this building is permitted...

NOTICE

St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
(Registered no 1119839-1)

105 High Street, Worcester, WR1 2HS

Take notice that I, Peter Gotham, was appointed Interim Manager of the Business and Assets of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust by the Charity Commission under case no. 685451 on 28 April 2009.

No entry to this building is permitted without my express authority.

Any enquiries regarding access should be addressed during office hours to:

Fergus Jack

Telephone: 0207 643 6579

P Gotham
Interim Manager
St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust

From Chester With Sympathy

Phil Groom writes:

Thanks to our intrepid photographer (you know who you are) for these latest pictures from Chester:

Chester's Christian Bookshop, 25th Feb 2009 - trading as...

Chester's Christian Bookshop, 25th Feb 2009 - trading as...

... trading as... don't look too closely now...

... trading as... don't look too closely at those stickers now...

50% off, according to the sale notices; but would you pay as much as half-price for books in this condition? Personally I’d say even asking 50p each would be a bit much; but perhaps greetings cards are more reasonably priced?

"I said I needed a VAT receipt and this is what they gave me..."

"I said I needed a VAT receipt and this is what they gave me..."

The only other information on the receipt is a signature, which I’ve cropped off the bottom. I’m told that the staff were very apologetic and are evidently doing their best under the circumstances: no blame attaches to them; just plenty of sympathy needed…

Despite requests to ‘Head Office’ the tills have apparently been out of use since Trading Standards visited a few weeks ago — here’s a reminder of how things were Shopping in Chester in January:

Chester Till Receipt and Bag, January 2009

Chester Till Receipt and Bag, January 2009

Now, what’s this rumour I hear of a sudden bout of stocktaking in all the shops?

Shopping in Chester

Phil Groom writes:

Chester Till Receipt and Bag, January 2009

Chester Till Receipt and Bag, January 2009

Merely an oversight, I’m sure…

I understand that Trading Standards have given the shop until 5th Feb to set the record straight and provide a notice identifying the current owners along with their contact details.

I’ll say no more: don’t want to go down in history as a nit picker 😉

Thank you to our intrepid photographer: you know who you are.

Peek-a-Boo: Where are you? Playing Hide and Seek with the Charity Commission

Phil Groom writes:

As the Charity Commission say, it may simply be an oversight. J Mark and Philip W Brewer are not usually backward about coming forward. But in the meantime it seems that the Charity Commission investigation into SSG may have run into a wee problem:

Chester shop is also still using bags with the SPCK name and charity number on.

I have contacted the charity commission to complain about this and they told me that at present they have no contact address for Saint Stephen the Great as any letters are being returned to them as not known at the address.

When I said surely no charity can operate without a contact address they said it was probaly just an oversight that no one had thought to give them a new address.

yorkshire pride, January 6, 2009, 8.01pm

The good news is that there are other options; as I said in response to yorkshire pride:

It should be possible to contact J Mark Brewer here:

Brewer & Pritchard PC: Contact. Assuming he’s still with the company, of course. But if not, as a wannabe US Congressman, his campaign address is also a matter of public record: Campaign Money: John Mark Brewer.

(Don’t get too excited about the outstanding debt of $559,846 from his 2000 campaign; it was self-loaned: “Brewer ranked fifth among U.S. House candidates for self-loans during the first half of the year” – Texas Weekly: ‘Tis the Season to Spend Money.)

Mark, old chap, if you or any of your colleagues should happen to be reading this, please do get in touch with the Charity Commission, there’s a good fellow. Thank you.

New Name for SSG?

SSG: Silly Stupid Games, perhaps? Apart from when you’re playing with people’s livelihoods and jobs, because then it’s not a game, is it?

It strikes me as particularly ironic that having started the day by promoting Mark Greene’s Christian Life & Work DVD this morning in my post about Small Group Resources, I now end it with a report on the latest shenanigans at SSG. Maybe someone could set themselves the task of producing a DVD on the topic of being a Christian employer? It could start with lessons in how not to fire your staff…

Yes, you’ve guessed it: another round, apparently, of firing-by-email. I have in front of me an email, apparently from Mr Phillip W Brewer, addressed to “Staff (in Chester)”. Dated June 1st it states:

Effectively immediately, all former SPCK Bookshops being operated by the SSG trading company are to be staffed by a new management company. Should you wish to continue your employment at the Chester bookshop, you may do so by applying for a position with the new company. The company which will operate the bookshops is ENC Management Company.

This is not a transfer of your employment under TUPE. Rather, this is notification to you by St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust that the trading company known as SSG (St Stephen the Great, a limited liability company) will no longer be operating the bookshop. 

I’m told that the staff have been in touch with their union and are being advised on how to proceed. Or not, as the case may be: who can say?

I invited the Booksellers Association (BA) — of which SSG and I both happen to be members — to comment, but have been told that there can be “no official or unofficial response from the BA, the ruling body of which has in this case specifically taken the established line that we do not comment on how members run their businesses.” That’s OK, then, I guess: I can abuse my employees as much as I like and no one’s going to hold me responsible. Where did I read that story about someone washing his hands? 

In the midst of the nightmares, some good news: Dave Walker’s Cartoon Church Blog is back online, albeit at a temporary location: http://cartoonchurch.wordpress.com/ — welcome back, Dave!

Please feel free to post your own suggestions on what SSG or the new initials ENC might really stand for…

Update 5th June 2008
Have just been informed that the Brewers have now advised staff that they can continue to work under their old contracts whilst SSG takes legal advice… watch this space…

Update 6th June 2008
Dave Walker has posted a copy of an email “sent to most if not all of the former SPCK shops by Mark Brewer” which states:

SSG (St Stephen the Great – limited liability company) has been terminated as the trading company to operate the bookshops formerly known as SPCK Bookshops.

From: SSG files for bankruptcy.