Amidst the closures of many large high street retailers, Darlington’s very own alternative fashion store Guru Boutique is evolving and flourishing.
Beryl Hankin is Guru’s proprietor, but emphasises the importance of companionship and teamwork between herself and her four colleagues.
She said: “We are all equally vital to Guru.
“Guru’s survival is something of a miracle, and it is down to the fact that we put people before profit.
“Love and respect are probably the words to describe our secret of longevity, as we do love and respect our colleagues, our friends, the world we inhabit and most of our customers, and I think it shows.”
The team at Guru have definitely made their mark in their hometown. In addition to peacefully campaigning against the destruction of the original High Row, one of Darlington’s oldest landmarks, Beryl and her colleagues have campaigned for other positive changes for Darlington.
The Guru activists spent several months campaigning for lower Sunday car parking charges in Darlington town centre, in order to allow customers longer to browse, and help the town’s businesses blossom.
As part of the campaign, Beryl actively went out onto the streets of Darlington and encouraged over 750 people to have their say about the parking prices. She showed her findings to the council, and successfully managed to get Sunday parking charges reduced from £1 per hour to £1 per day.
Beryl, who is the author of a book entitled That Darlington Way: The Spirit Of Old High Row, has plans for the future. She said: “We are currently trying to get our council to provide more attractive parking policies in an attempt to ensure people want to come here to support the many good businesses we have.
“We try to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening in our town and peacefully campaign and make our feelings known if we see something happening which we think is glaringly wrong or harmful.”
The independent retailer of alternative clothes, gifts, cards and accessories was part of establishing Darlington’s monthly Sunday market last April, and will be celebrating 41 years of business on March 16th.
“Two words that sum our approach up are individuality and continuity – and they apply to our dealings in fashion, music, business, environment and life itself.”
Lucy Atkinson, 20, an alternative model and Guru customer from Northallerton, said: “Guru is great, it certainly inspires the alternative mind.”
Holly Grant, 19, a former Darlington resident and current student at The University of Huddersfield, said: “The staff at Guru seem to radiate a more comfortable, approachable feel than staff in bigger stores.
“The products, smell, music and decor are really unique in comparison to a lot of the other shops in Darlington.
“If you’re looking for unique clothes to enhance your individuality, then Guru is a very good place for that.”
The Guru team from left to right: Colin Harrison, Beryl Hankin, Kelly McWilliams and Tony Smith.