Jane Winkworth

The Kindness of Strangers… October 08th 2013

Two weeks ago on a Tuesday evening our worst nightmare occurred in our lovely Mayfair showroom and offices.

Fire had broken out deep within the cavity space between two walls, it was only because the smoke and heat was so intense that the girls downstairs in our store were alerted and able to call the Fire Brigade.
Firemen from three stations were on the scene with four engines within minutes of our call.  This was the night before their day of action on the Wednesday.
They were due to go off shift but without hesitation, they were there and they saved our building from total and complete devastation and destruction.

They were incredible - swift and professional - the fire was extinguished almost as quickly as it had begun.

The staff were amazing - all our key managers and directors dropped what they were doing and rushed to Brook Street - girls left all our other stores or left their homes and came back to help. Everyone was incredible and those back at Swallowfield who only heard the following morning all telephoned, emailed messages and sent cards of support, hope and encouragement.

I suppose it was expected that our own families and friends and of course all the loyal staff we have at French Sole to respond in this manner - but what completely amazed us all was the level of kindness and concern that were shown over the following days from total and complete strangers.

The ITV news carried the story as did the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and several other papers all covered it and we were all over social media - so word spread instantly.
I personally received more than two hundred emails from the most extraordinarily diverse people from all over the world! Messages of kindness from total strangers.

Our franchisees, distributors, customers from as far away as Sydney - girls who worked for French Sole twenty years ago and several of my very first customers from Munster Road. One ex-employee now living in Hong Kong and numerous total strangers telling us how much they loved French Sole and wishing us well.

Shops all around called up offering help and assistance and customers who turned up at the store the next day were more than happy to travel to our Marylebone store where for their extra five minute walk they were treated to a 10% off voucher. Word of this quickly spread too and our Marylebone store was swamped with eager customers thrilled to get their extra discount.

We will be open again for business as usual in two weeks time in the store - but our showrooms and offices will take much longer to repair , but everyone has been so quick and efficient . Loss adjusters have been helpful and charming, insurance companies professional and fair, the electricians and builders we have used for years have agreed to drop all their other work and start immediately to get us back up and running in the shop - could we ask for more?

My staff all know who they are and know how much I value their loyalty, support and genuine care and concern for French Sole and I value their continued offers of help in their own time, out of hours and purely because they love their job - thank you all of you. You know who you are, I don’t have to name names! But again, a massive heartfelt and genuine “THANK YOU” from myself and my family.

We are indebted to the London Fire Brigade and to their charming, brave and selfless hero Firemen - very handsome too! Thank you so much to all of you who attended our fire - from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

Last, but not least a thank you to all the many strangers who showed a kindness and compassion that none of us ever expected or anticipated.

Categories: Home & Away, My Week, Press, Work

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Charities Jane supports:

The Royal ballet school English National Ballet Starlight ACCA The Royal Marsden Havens Hospice