It was once a place where you could buy anything from a curtain rail and glue, to lightbulbs or, famously, just one nail if that was all that was needed.
But seven years on after being acquired for a local youth project following the death of its owner, Rowland Tait, the former hardware shop at the top of Selkirk’s West Port is once again a vital and intergral part of life in the royal burgh.
The shop was acquired on behalf of the Selkirk Dry Bar Association, a local charity originally set up many years previously on the initiative of concerned parents, professionals, and church members to provide an alcohol and drug-free drop-in centre for young people.
Up until 2007, the dry bar association had led a pretty peripatetic life, making use of several premises dotted about the royal burgh.
But all that changed in 2007, thanks to the generosity of the Tait family and donations from local people and businesses, which meant the association was able to obtain the present premises and the flat above it.
It now acts as a permanent base, rechristened Rowland’s, providing a community hub for young people, complete with cafe, computer suite, pool table, juke box and choice of comfy sofas.
Rowland’s provides a safe and secure haven for anyone aged 11/12 and about to leave primary school up to 18 years old and who want to chat, chill out with their mates or study.
A registered charity, as well as company limited by guarantee, Rowland’s success has only been possible thanks to its part-time staff and volunteers.
As well as its Monday and Friday classic drop-in nights, there are regular events like its homework club. Rowland’s staff and volunteers also help young people with a range array of activities and projects, from film making to smoking cessation sessions and driving theory.
This month also sees Rowland’s open from 4-7pm every Saturday for Rowland’s Bistro.
“It means young people can come in on a Saturday and basically have their tea with their pals,” added project manager, Avril McIntyre.
And Rowland’s is also just about to embark on a six-week course working with primary seven pupils at Philiphaugh and Lilliesleaf schools, helping them get ready to make the looming move up to secondary school.
But Avril says that with hundreds of local young people now using Rowland’s, more volunteers are badly needed.
“We’ve got so much on offer, we’re now struggling to run it all because we just don’t have the manpower needed.
“We can offer lots of training to volunteers, who can even often go on to find paid employment or enhance their CVs as a result.”
Last year, Rowland’s became the first youth provision in Scotland to gain the new ‘volunteer friendly’ award; something which everyone involved with the project was delighted about.
“It’s important to have a really good mix of volunteers, of varying ages and with different life experiences, because young people gravitate towards different people for different things,” Avril said.
“Young people are just as much a part of our community as adults and we need to remember that.”
Like a number of youth work projects in the Borders, Rowland’s also has a youth committee which has an integral role in the running of the project.
Avril explained: “A lot of people still have this perception that young people aren’t interested in much and just want to sit about or stand at street corners.
“But the truth is that young people are keen to have a go at pretty much any activities we put on.
“But with only three part-time staff, we need more volunteers so we can offer all these great opportunities and activities to many more young people.”
Rowland’s benefits from the generosity of a number of sponsors, including Spark Energy which covers gas and electricity costs and Office Specialities which donates all the charity’s office supplies needs.
“That sort of help has been a massive boost for us and we’re so grateful for the help we get from all our sponsors,” added Avril.
l “If you are interested in volunteering, or would like to find out more about the variety of volunteering opportunities near to you.
Please call Kai on 07585825974, or email email@example.com”