Berwick shop owners coming together to give people the chance to have a chat at Bari Benches

A couple who run an antiques gallery in Berwick will be among the shop owners taking part in a new initiative to give members of the public an opportunity to open up.

By Andrew Coulson
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 11:00 am
Jonathan Macfarlane inside the ROJO Antiques Gallery in Berwick. Picture by Canon Alan Hughes.
Jonathan Macfarlane inside the ROJO Antiques Gallery in Berwick. Picture by Canon Alan Hughes.

A group of owners have got together to come up with the ‘Bari Benches’ idea, which is due to start in August.

Among those signed up are Roland Wallis and Jonathan Macfarlane. They combined the start of their names to call their shop ROJO Antiques Gallery, which opened in Church Street last October.

Jonathan said: “The Bari Benches will be set-up on the town walls once a month and four or five of us will be available because we feel there are quite a few people in the town, especially those who live on their own, who would appreciate being able to speak to someone about anything they like.

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“We are not going to be intrusive and it’s taking things a step forward from what happens in our shops as we all have people who like to engage in conversation whilst they are browsing.”

Roland and Jonathan have been together for 37 years and they are both painters and art historians.

After running a shop in Brighton from 1997 and moving to the south of France to open an art school in 2004, they returned to the UK to live in Cockburnspath and had a shop in Edinburgh.

A move to Berwick followed as they regularly visited and loved its arts offering and overall charm, and they got married in the town.

Not long after returning to Berwick (Church Street) in summer 2021 after a few years in North Yorkshire caring for a relative, they noticed that a shop unit was available in the same street and were up and running by the autumn.

Items available in ROJO Antiques Gallery include furniture, classic and modern paintings, bronze sculptures and other antiques from around the world.

Jonathan said: “We have a lot of returning customers and it helps that we live close by. For example, on Monday a dealer from Newcastle called and even though the shop was closed, I was able to open it up for him so he could look at particular items.

“It’s going great guns so far and this fits in with the positivity in Berwick as a decent number of new shops have opened in the last 12 months.

“We’re part of a fun swimming activity with other shop owners in the same field where we can discuss ideas informally and we’re also working with the Berwick Chamber of Trade as part of work to promote the diversity of businesses in the town.”