9:50am Friday 6th April 2012
A Winchester gift shop is back in business after striking a deal with its former owners to continue trading.
Cornflowers Gift Shop in College Street was set to close after owner Winchester College decided to scrap the shop last year.
The college said the shop, which was technically a charity, was not making enough of a profit to continue because of tax law restrictions.
But manager Heather Smart put together a plan to run Cornflowers independently, and agreed a six-year lease last month.
Ms Smart, who now owns the business, said: “I have always had a good relationship with the college and I did not want that to change so we are delighted we could come to an agreement.
“The college has been very helpful including paying for the refurbishing of the shop. It could not have been a smoother transition.”
The shop is still open at the same times as before and is run by the same staff.
Ms Smart added she was confident the shop would prosper as it no longer had to pay costs associated with charity status.
She said: “We are off to a good start and everything is going to plan — in fact I’d say we are above our targets.
“But we do get people coming in saying ‘I thought you were closed’, so we want to make sure people know we are here.”
Negotiations lasted several months, beginning last November, and although the shop closed for a month on December 31, it was only to be refurbished.
Jeff Hynam, bursar at Winchester College, said he was glad they could come to an arrangement to keep the shop open.
Mr Hynam said: “Changes in charity and tax law meant that the college was no longer able to support Cornflowers as a trading subsidiary and, as planned, Cornflowers closed as the College Gift Shop on December 31.
“The college considered a number of alternative uses, but was delighted that Heather Smart, the former manager, submitted a proposal to re-open the shop as an independent business.
“The college carried out some significant refurbishments during January, and granted a rent-free period, so that Heather could start her business afresh and on a sound footing.”
The deal is similar to one the college has with P & G Wells bookshop nearby, where the college owns the building but receives rent.
Around 2,000 people signed a petition to keep the shop open when it was under threat last year and campaigners are pleased at the news.
Jane Dunster, one of the leaders of the campaign, said: “It’s great news. It’s in a great location and it is well run.
“Heather is very good at what she does and I cannot see how it could fail.”
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