Men­tal health char­ity launches bike busi­ness

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY BARRY TOBERMAN

IN WHAT is touted as “coolest char­ity store in Bore­ham­wood”, Jami has ven­tured into the bi­cy­cle trade.

Head Room Bikes is a multi-lay­ered so­cial en­ter­prise pro­ject from the men­tal health char­ity. As well as re­tail­ing re­stored bikes, the ad­join­ing ware­house space is now open for shop­pers to browse a wide se­lec­tion of do­nated sec­ond­hand clothes and house­hold items. In a nod to Jami’s Head Room café in Gold­ers Green, there is even a small space at the front for pa­trons to en­joy a cof­fee or other re­fresh­ments.

When the Gold­ers Green build­ing was trans­formed from a tra­di­tional char­ity shop into Head Room in 2016, Jami took on the Bore­ham­wood site as a stor­age space for do­nated goods. It also houses an eBay sales op­er­a­tion.

But Jami’s new head of so­cial en­ter­prise, War­ren Traeger, is keen to take things for­ward.

Mr Traeger has spent 30 years in the man­u­fac­tur­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing li­cens­ing in­dus­tries, 18 with M&S.

His fond­est mem­o­ries were of four years with Lon­don 2012, li­cens­ing of­fi­cial sou­venirs. “The Olympics were the first time I had worked for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that had more than a pur­pose of mak­ing money,” he re­called.

The Jami role ad­di­tion­ally ap­pealed as “men­tal health is a topic that has per­sonal rel­e­vance. I have lived with de­pres­sion for many years. I haven’t had help from a char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion but I was aware of Jami and have friends who have used it.”

While im­pressed by the vol­un­teer­ing and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties the ware­house af­fords to ser­vice users, Mr Traeger saw un­re­alised po­ten­tial. “We have a ware­house full of prod­ucts. The vast ma­jor­ity don’t even make it onto eBay, al­though some we re­cy­cle. We thought that if we were go­ing to open a bike store, let peo­ple also see the bric a brac.”

The bike out­let re­sulted from con­ver­sa­tions with Mark Abrahams of Re­cy­cle Your Cy­cle, through which pris­on­ers re­pair and re­fur­bish do­nated bikes for char­ity re­sale.

Eleven bikes were sold dur­ing a soft launch over a May Bank Hol­i­day and, by co­in­ci­dence rather than de­sign, the of­fi­cial open­ing was on Sun­day, the fi­nal day of the Tour de France.

More than 50 bikes were on sale, priced from £20 for chil­dren’s cy­cles and from £60 for adult bikes. Re­cy­cle Your Cy­cle is the main sup­plier but others have been do­nated from the lo­cal and wider com­mu­ni­ties. The ware­house area has been given a sig­nif­i­cant facelift with white painted walls, from which chairs, avail­able for pur­chase, hang from high. At ground level, mer­chan­dise is ar­ranged in sec­tions (women’s/men’s/kids/home­ware). A small chang­ing room has been cre­ated at the back.

“There’s Gucci and there’s Prada,” Mr Traeger noted. And on the book­shelves, an im­pres­sive ar­ray of psy­chol­ogy lit­er­a­ture. “We’ve prob­a­bly got more Freud books than any book­shop in Lon­don.

“It’s a bit like a Jewish mu­seum. A lot of do­na­tions fol­low some­one’s death so there are gramo­phones and fur coats from the 1950s.

“Two ser­vice users are work­ing in the café,” he added. “They have been on hy­giene cour­ses and are start­ing barista train­ing. Some of the ser­vice users we have at Jami are in­cred­i­bly cre­ative and do­ing eBay listings is not right for them.” A long-term goal “is to take the pro­ject for­ward and have ser­vice users trained so they can also do re­pairs”.

The en­ter­prise was also about “en­gag­ing with the com­mu­nity, break­ing down the myths and stig­mas [a Mitz­vah Day ac­tiv­ity with the lo­cal United Sy­n­a­gogue is un­der dis­cus­sion]. And the café brings a lighter side to the men­tal health con­ver­sa­tion.”

Among ser­vice users in­volved in the Bore­ham­wood op­er­a­tion is David

We have got more Freud books than any Lon­don book­shop’

Ki­bel, a ge­nial pres­ence, who is paid for two days and vol­un­teers for a fur­ther two, pric­ing clothes, work­ing on the eBay busi­ness and help­ing with de­liv­er­ies and col­lec­tions.

“Doc­tors told me I would never have a life,” he said. “But I am now fairly sta­ble.

“I’ve been with Jami half my life. I love meet­ing peo­ple. I don’t worry about my­self, I worry about others. I am here un­til I re­tire.”

A fel­low ser­vice user, Louis Ami­noff, has come to Jami more re­cently, vol­un­teer­ing three days a week. He has been in­volved in the bike shop and Mr Traeger hopes to get him cy­cling.

Be­ing with Jami had “made a mas­sive im­pact”, Mr Ami­noff said. “My life has pur­pose. It’s good to keep busy.

“I have got some­thing to get up for. My mum is a lot hap­pier.”

For now, Mr Traeger would be happy for the pro­ject to break even, pro­vided it met the “peo­ple ob­jec­tives — our ser­vice users gain­ing vo­ca­tional and so­cial skills. Long-term, we are look­ing for­ward to a sus­tain­able in­come stream.”

Point­ing to a chair painted in or­ange and blue stripes, an­other dec­o­rated with pages from a po­etry book and a stor­age unit con­structed from seat­ing, he added that the busi­ness could soon be as much about “up­cy­cling” as cy­cling.

I’ve been with Jami half my life. I am here till I re­tire’

The new cy­cle store within the Jami premises in Bore­ham­wood — and (in­set) the ad­join­ing ware­house area now open to shop­pers

David Ki­bel, Louis Ami­noff and War­ren Traeger

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