Two years ago Brightlingsea became an even brighter place when a shop called Joy opened at number 28 in the High Street.
The shop, an Aladdin's cave with a wide range of oriental food and cooking utensils, as well as attractive clothing and accessories for fashion and the home, is run by Joy Vollans, right.
Finding the shop, with its distinctive red telephone box frontage, was a stroke of good fortune, according to Joy. It was a bookshop and one day when Joy was walking past she saw a book in the window which had her lucky number, 999, on its cover.
She had already started, in a tentative way, selling some oriental goods on line from her home in Brightlingsea, but was keen to open a shop. When she found out the lease was available for the former bookshop her ambition became a reality and Joy is making the shop a success. Last year she was a finalist in the Tendring Blue Ribbon award for excellence in customer service.
“I do feel that the shop is a special place. I am lucky that I found it by accident and it is just what I wanted,” said Joy, a former maths teacher who is originally from Thailand and has lived here for seven years.
“When I first set up my shop in Brightlingsea I was selling clothes and fashion accessories. I had a few Thai food products in one corner and gradually this has become the main part of the business.
I love cooking and I love Thai food. It has become more and popular because it is healthy and flavoursome and it seems to be everyone's favourite.
“People are really pleased to find authentic Thai products in the shop and, as well as local customers, I have some who come from quite a long way to buy goods that are otherwise difficult to find. I have been lucky to have been able to stay open during the coronavirus lockdown, because of selling fresh, packaged and tinned food products. I was pleased to see new customers during this time and I was guided by what they wanted. They had become bored with the same old food during lockdown and wanted to try something new to cook at home.”
As well as running her shop Joy, who has two daughters aged seven and 12, has held Thai cookery courses in Brightlingsea and hopes to expand on this in the future. She has also demonstrated and held workshops in the intricate and beautiful art of vegetable, fruit and soap carving, a Thai speciality.
She says living England was a challenge at first, but her determination and love of learning won through and it was a proud moment when she achieved British citizenship.
“I was always inspired by English people, they are very motivated and clever,” she said. “Before I moved to England I was offered a job by a couple called Harry and Helen who were going to start a new business. I was very lucky and started working straight away as a receptionist at The Baths Hall in Scunthorpe. It was very difficult at first with the language barrier, even though I had a degree.
“I used to cry every time the phone rang, but after a year with many English classes in college and adult learning I could understand better and pick up different accents. Harry and Helen would be so proud of me now. Sadly, they died in a plane crash in Phuket, Thailand many years ago.
“I had very good examples from my mother and my grandmother, they are very hard working and I want to give a good example to my girls too . I tell them, if Mummy can do it they can too. You have to work hard, be ambitious and never give up. No matter who you are and where you come from, be kind always.
“I do enjoy living in Brightlingsea, it is lovely to be near the sea and to be close enough to London. People are friendly here and it is a good place for my girls' future. I do feel very lucky that I have come this far and have been able to follow my dream.”
Joy is hoping to continue to develop and expand her business, in both the shop sales and her rapidly expanding online ordering and delivery sector. With expansion, Joy hopes that she will be able to offer full and part time local employment in both her retail business and online sector and hopefully be able to help local young people looking to get a start in employment.