Allsorts still bought and sold

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It’s a veritable Aladdin’s Cave on Clarence Road – the sort of shop that has constantly changing, always fascinating stock. The kind of place you could spend endless hours rummaging around in.

And this month Allsorts – the family-run business that buys and sells pre-owned modern and antique furniture and collectibles – is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Owners Keith and Pat Coomber can’t believe how the time has flown – “In the blink of an eye,” according to Keith – and they’re hoping to hand over to daughter Hayley at some point.

This may be sooner than later, as Pat hasn’t been too well and Keith has taken time off to accompany her to the hospital for treatment for the lymphoma that was first diagnosed 11 years ago.

Hayley, 27, says: “I’m so immensely proud of my parents. They’ve always been a source of love and support, and it’s so much more than a shop for so many people – it’s somewhere they can go when things get too much, somewhere to have a coffee and a chat.”

Keith, 58, confides proudly they know nearly all their customers by name. “We consider them as friends,” he says. “We’ve seen them grow up and have children and then grandchildren. But some of them are getting old and finishing up with dementia. We always help out when we can.”

Hayley and her siblings – sisters Tiffany and Michelle and brother Peter – have lost count of the number of times they’ve shared Christmas dinner with strangers or the Queen’s speech has been interrupted as one or other parent has run out with a plate of warm dinner for a needy neighbour.

In addition this warm-hearted couple have spent the past 10 years as short term and respite foster carers to 26 children. But mention this community spirit and Keith gets embarrassed. “I’m not one to blow my own trumpet,” he says. “But Pat, she’s lovely. She’s got a lot of patience and empathy. She never says no to anyone.”
His voice softens when he speaks of the children they’ve fostered. “You get really attached to them,” he admits. “You’re supposed to pull back and you do loads of training so you’re glad for them when they move on, and they’re happy too. But one lad popped into the shop recently and it nearly ripped my heart out to see him again.”

There’s no doubt these two are pillars of the community - just as their daughter says.