Free Style store closes after 39 years: “I was open to florists on Sundays” (Lochristi)

39 years as a self-employed person, always with a smile © ghl


Saturday afternoon was the sweet spot at ‘Free Style Boutique’ in Dorp-West. After several months of sales, the door to Annie Vervaet’s clothing store (62, until Tuesday) closed after 39 years. “I think I was the oldest self-employed person in Lochristi after Toon (van Optiek Vandeweghe, ed.),” She says.

The cycling club, a couple of ‘Lootse women’ – also a club of self-employed people – and family members: They all came to see Annie on her last day, making ‘Free Style’ more like a flower shop. “It gives me great pleasure to see many people again. I posted it on Facebook to get by, and I really meant it, ”says Annie, who just has not reached the mark as a freelancer in forty years. “Johan is retiring in September, and I have always said that we should stop together. Otherwise I would have stayed for another year. ”

Paulien and Lena are celebrating with Grandma

Paulien and Lena are celebrating with Grandma © ghl

The last pants, for five euros

The last pants, for five euros © ghl

The sweet attack in the middle of the flowers in Free Style

The sweet attack in the middle of the flowers in Free Style © ghl

Personal connection

The independent adventure started right after their marriage, then still on the other side of the street and in Dorp-Oost, where Larmuseau now lives. “I started my clothing store there in 1983, I was pregnant with my daughter. After two years, I moved to this place.” Annie has always built a personal bond with customers who were also very loyal: “I did not buy a collection because it or that was fashion, but I always had in mind what would suit who or for whom,” she says . . The men liked it too. “A lot of customers say where should my husband buy his clothes now,” she laughs. “When someone came in, I knew right away what size I was going to have from the racks.” Until about ten years ago, the store also kept open Sunday mornings. “I did it before the florists did not have time during the week. I sometimes sold more in the two hours than on a normal day.”

Striking: After the last hours of the sale, there is almost nothing left, except for a row of colorful summer pants. “Just because I knew everyone’s tastes,” Annie says. “The last few days it went very fast, sometimes I sold ten dresses at once. What was left, I went to the charity, the Food Bank. Unfortunately, it will not be so much more ».

Times have changed

Of course, the fact that times have changed for the Lootse companies no longer makes it clear to a local self-employed person after 40 years. “The lament about the big chains along the road is not really something for me. I did not lose a customer because a C&A came. Of course, people sometimes try that, but they still return to their trusted store. Corona has made sure to buy even more through the internet. If you’ve been to the post office recently, you know how many racks and boxes there are to bring back to this world’s Zalandos. “

Lootse independent women, they are looking for each other

Lootse independent women, they are looking for each other © ghl

Annie and her sister

Annie and her sister © ghl

And now…

Annie from ‘Free Style’ by no means ends up in a black hole after Saturday. “There are so many things I like to do. We have four grandchildren who also like to be with grandma when they need something. We like to go to the sea together. I also enjoy cycling and go, and will now also have time to read a book.My parents are both 88 and still live independently, I also want more time for them.As self-employed in a store you should always be there.You then live by the clock. If I wanted to meet someone now, it had to take place in the afternoon. ”

Annie does not regret when she does for the last time what she has done a thousand times: roll onto the rack with the remaining clothes. “I decided it myself, so I do not regret it. People will miss me and I them. I especially want to remember the sympathy. I know a lot about the customers and they know about me. I would not do it again in these times. It is impossible to develop a clientele now. After generations, customers in the store also come to you, otherwise the story as an independent would not be correct, “she concludes. With a glass of cava with the last friends who come to see her goodbye in Boutique ‘Free Style’.

Last time ... the stand is forever

Last time … the stand is forever © ghl

(Geert Herman)

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