Louise Citroni says it is thanks to the lovely, loyal Shoreham community, family and friends that she has survived.
She took over the former One Stop shop in Middle Road last year and had to completely gut it before opening ABC Shoreham on October 27, 2020.
It was her lifelong dream to open a shop and it was thanks to the support of her family that it came true, although she admits the middle of a pandemic was far from the perfect time to open a new business.
Louise specialises in stationery, crafts, cards, gifts, toys and balloons, and named the shop after her sons, Ashley and Bradley Citroni.
She said: “It’s certainly been a very interesting and challenging year but with all the support from my wonderful family, friends and loyal customers, I’ve got through it and am extremely grateful.
“I love chatting to the locals and getting to know them and helping people where possible and like to provide a personal service, which is very sparse nowadays. I hope to be here and serving the local community for many years to come.”
Louise was furloughed in March 2020 from her previous job as part-time shop manager for a family-run office supplies business.
She had been with them for 13 years but when she returned to work last July, there was no guarantee her job would be safe, as the company had decided to downsize and no longer have a shop.
Louise said: “My job role was obviously going to be a bit different. I started to think about something else I could do alongside it, in case things didn’t work out.
“I’ve always been obsessed with stationery since I was about five, so I was going to set up a little pop-up shop at home with various arts and crafts, back to school stuff, etc., as my dream had always been to have my own shop one day.
“I have two children aged seven and ten who are still dependent on me, so it was something I never thought I’d be doing until they were much older. Starting off small at home seemed to be the best scenario for the time being.”
However, a few weeks later, Louise noticed the One Stop shop in Middle Road had closed down. It occurred to her it was the ideal place to sell the kind of products she had in mind.
She said: “It was right in the middle of a huge community with lots of families and several schools close by. I made some enquiries just out of interest and thought I can do this.
“I spoke to my parents for advice as my dad has run a successful business for over 40 years. My husband was a little more dubious, as opening a shop in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t ideal, but knowing how determined I am, he knew I would do it anyway, regardless.”
Louise’s parents offered to lend her the money to set up her business and with their support, she grabbed the moment.
She said: “We nearly lost my dad last year, after he had to have brain surgery following an accident, so we all knew how life is too short and to seize the opportunities while they’re there.
“In the space of a few weeks, my childhood dream of having my own shop, selling the things I love, was coming true.”
It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to her previous employers, as she loved her job, but they gave her their full support.
“I always think things happen for a reason and what’s meant to be will be,” said Louise.
“I had to decide on a name, which came quite quickly to me, as I wanted my children to be part of it, so it’s named after them, Ashley and Bradley Citroni (ABC).”
Deciding on stock, Louise said stationery and crafts were her main objectives but she decided to include gifts, greetings cards, pocket money toys, balloons and partyware, too, at affordable prices.
The shop had to be completely gutted and redecorated but it was ready to open on October 27, 2020. Unfortunately, just eight days later, the country went into lockdown for four weeks.
Louise was able to continue to operate by running a click and collect service and this proved popular with customers.
She explained: “As no one could go anywhere, arts and crafts were a great go to with the kids and birthdays still happened. People wanted to be able make the best of a bad situation and still celebrate at home, so it was lovely to able to put a smile on someone’s face with a balloon.”
The shop was able to open again on December 3, which was great for the lead up to Christmas, but it was not long before it had to close, as restrictions kicked in again, from Christmas Eve until April 12, 2021.
Louise said: “Not quite the outcome I’d hoped for in the first few months of opening but I always knew it was a bit of a risk and thought if I can survive this, then I can survive anything.
“I carried on with the previous way I’d operated behind closed doors, along with the dreaded home schooling added in, too, and got through it. A whole year as now passed and I’m still here. Shop local and support small businesses.”
ABC Shoreham had a party to celebrate the first year on Wednesday, October 27. Louise said everyone had been ‘lovely’ and ‘had nothing but kind words and good luck wishes’.