Poppy Brady, Voice Writer
AFTER MORE than two decades, a Jamaican-born couple has decided to close the shutters on their unique greeting card and gift store for good. Jolly's store has been a landmark along Birmingham's bustling Soho Road in Handsworth since Jolly and Flo Bailey first opened its doors in 1991 when their shop was known as 'the first name in black greeting cards'.
But now Jolly, 70, from Papine, St Andrew, and Flo, who hails from Osborne Store in Clarendon, feel it's finally time to put their feet up.
Jolly, a former engineer with GEC, said: "Business has been tough at times, but serving the community has been our greatest joy, and we have had some truly wonderful customers over the years. We appreciate the loyalty they have shown us and we shall miss them, but we feel it's time now to slow down a little."
Customers have been known to travel across the UK to buy their unique cards, made especially for the African Caribbean community. The shop also has a 'culture corner' and sells a wide range of African fine art, posters, and books from local black writers such as Jasmine Johnson and David Simon. Over the years, Jolly combined working in the shop with an incredible amount of voluntary work, which included more than 20 years spent as a governor at several local schools such as Hamstead Hall Community Learning Centre, St John Wall Catholic School, and St James C of E Primary School.
A former chair of Ladywood and Handsworth Labour Party, he also chaired the Oaklands and Laurel Road Community Centres, while also mentoring young black boys threatened with exclusion at the Kwesi project. And if all that wasn't enough, the great-grandfather also gave 18 years service on the Valuation Tribunal Service Appeals Panel, which covered appeals against council tax, while also being part of the Education Tribunal Appeals Panel for 15 years.
One of the couple's highpoints came last year when they were featured in the BBC's Olympic coverage and interviewed in their shop by gold Olympic medallist- turned-presenter Denise Lewis. Jolly said: "We had no idea when the interview was going to go out, but it was broadcast just before the 100 metres final, so I think the whole world must have seen us."
Determined Jolly, who left Jamaica in his late teens, he added: "We had people phoning us from everywhere afterwards. Denise asked us about our life here in Britain and I explained how we had always been determined to succeed and have a can-do attitude."
That can-do attitude has extended to their four daughters and one son, who have all done extremely well in their respective careers, while also giving Jolly and Flo six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
At times, when the shop has been busy, three generations of the Bailey family have helped out. Jolly's shop will shut its doors for the last time on December 31, following a closing-down sale where everything must go.
Flo added: "It's quite an emotional time for us, but we just want to thank all our wonderful customers for so much loyalty and support. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."