This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 06/09/2017.
Sanderstead charity shop and tea room which help children with rare brain disorder close
The AADC Research Trust charity shop and its tea room, on the Hamsey Green parade in Limpsfield Road, have closed.
Lisa Flint, who founded the charity and ran both of the businesses, has shut the “bargain basement” charity shop and eBear’s Attic Charity Tea Room after she was served notice to leave the unit which the shop was in.
Although the tea room has closed, she will still be using the unit it was in as a “boutique charity shop” which will sell branded second-hand goods.
She said: “Our last day of opening was August 31 and I called a meeting then to tell everyone [the businesses were closing].
“This might make it look like the decision was made quite abruptly, but I have got between 60 and 70 volunteers who I wanted to speak to in person and not have them find out the sad news through social media.
“Deciding to close was a very difficult thing to do, but we can’t have the shadow hanging over us because it is not healthy for the volunteers or for the future of the charity.
“Unfortunately, the tea room has proven to be the biggest source of overhead costs – so while the bargain basement unit has not been sold yet, we decided to move now rather than later.”
The charity, which moved to Hamsey Green four years ago, funds worldwide research into aromatic amino acid decarboxylase deficiency (AADC), an extremely rare incurable brain disorder.
The condition prevents sufferers from producing dopamine and serotonin – chemicals which are key components in controlling moods.
This in turn hinders the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, meaning those with the condition tend to suffer with insomnia and low energy levels.
Other symptoms of the disease, which tends to get noticed when babies and toddlers miss developmental milestones, include weak muscle tone, muscle stiffness, difficulty moving and involuntary limb and eye movements.
Most children living with AADC also have trouble eating because of limited muscle movement and have to be fed through a tube.
These symptoms are often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy, and even with an AADC diagnosis the only drugs currently available to ease the symptoms were designed to treat adult Parkinson’s patients.
There are only about 130 children diagnosed with the condition worldwide, including Mrs Flint’s 19-year-old son Jake, and three children die from AADC each year.
She founded the AADC Research Trust in 2006 after realising there were “no other charities in the world” which focused solely on the disorder.
Mrs Flint told how local residents have been quick to express sadness over the closure of the tea room, particularly its garden room – a shabby-chic dining room for private afternoon tea bookings for between 10 to 16 people.
The £25,000 garden room was opened less than a year ago after Mrs Flint, 50, had to turn customers who wanted to visit in large parties away from the tea room.
She said: “We have had an enormous response to the news that we are closing with dozens of people saying they feel it’s a shame to see the tea rooms go.
“I had one girl come in and try to book [the garden room] for September and her face just dropped when I told her the bad news. She said she had always loved it.
“Getting rid of the garden room after just a few months was heartbreaking – it’s a terrible feeling to have to take down something you have spent so long putting together.”
The closure of the tea room has resulted in the loss of six part-time barista jobs, but all volunteering roles have been transferred, Mrs Flint explained.
“The six employees will continue to work with the charity as volunteers, and all the staff and volunteers are still strong supporters of the cause,” she said. “Their help has been invaluable and I can’t thank them enough.”
She now hopes to create a coffee and cake bar for shoppers when the boutique shop opens on September 14.
“We want to try and retain that quirkiness that has made us so popular and have a space which is a little bit different and offers more than just a charity shop,” she added.
“If we kept the tea room open there would be a risk of cross-contamination with the donations, but I have put my heart and soul into making this a great place to come to, which is why we are continuing as a boutique.”
This paper has contacted the landlord of the units the tea room and charity shop were in but he has declined to comment. Only the unit which the charity shop is in is up for sale, with Mrs Flint’s lease on the unit where the boutique shop will be running until next May.