A friendly smile and a good yarn

Babies and fashion, owner Mick Conquest will tell you, are what drives his business and without them Mavis of Bushey may not be marking 80 impressive years on the High Street this month. From new mums picking up a pair of needles for the first time to great-grandmothers knitting for a third generation, the need for baby booties, bonnets and shawls has seen countless customers come through the doors. Knitting is back in favour too for statement accessories and staying on trend with the latest colour schemes - both among men and women. 

Family strength is undoubtedly the secret of Mavis' success. Opened in 1935 by Mavis Conquest the shop is the longest established business in Bushey and son Mick has been behind the counter for the past 50 years. His wife Pam has done sterling work creating attractive window displays, his son Philip worked as a carpenter on the rebuild and eldest son Allen is the web master.

A knitting kit for Johnny Vegas' monkey was the impetus for starting mail order 15 years ago with the shop receiving around 50 orders a day and to date web sales stand at 3,000 for this item alone. The website now stocks natural fibres such as silk, mohair alpaca and bamboo, which Mick tells me is extracted from the juice of the plant and is popular because of its ability to hold vibrant colour. Traditional wool and acrylic fibres of all hues and sizes are also available. 

"When the stars like Kirsty Allsop started knitting it came back in fashion," recalls Mick. "People are knitting throws and even dishcloths these days. You see people knitting on trains and buses. It's quite acceptable to knit in public now."

You have to go in though to appreciate the value of Mavis which draws enthusiasts from around the country. Visiting on a Saturday morning the shop was buzzing with activity - a couple of young children were choosing colours for French knitting, Diana Clarke, who has been working at the store for the past 28 years, was at the till and Mick was among the shelves helping a customer. 

All the staff can knit but they're not just there for the wool but to share good wishes and advice, which is what makes Mavis such a remarkable asset to the community. It also stocks a budget line for charity and many locals knit for the maternity unit at Watford General Hospital

All this week there will be special promotions in store and neighbour St James Restaurant will be helping out with some of the celebrations. Mick would like to thank all of his customers and staff past and present for helping to make Mavis such a big success and here's to many more happy returns.

Mavis of Bushey
44 High Street
WD23 3HL
Telephone: 020 8950 5445