The Village Store is dead, now what?
When I moved into my new home six years ago, I inherited a grocery store. By inherited, I mean the place was attached to my home! So, if you’d asked me (or anybody I know) a few years earlier if I would be interested in playing postmaster and shopkeeping, you would have been laughed at.
Despite this, my family and I spent Christmas 2004 working on a tired, run down and rather grim looking village store. We installed a new till
system, laminate flooring and we ‘liberated’ some beautiful bay windows (that had been hidden behind hideous old shelving). After a lot of grafting, we met my self impose deadline of three days and opened a new, fresh, modern village store selling a variety of things such as tobacco, confectionery, groceries, newspapers, magazines (including a popular home delivery service), bill payments, postal service, etcetera. Look, I even have the photo to prove it! (Yes that’s me, complete with bushy eyebrows) in the traditional pose preferred by local press.
Happy day? Well, it was certainly was a satisfying day as we’d all worked very hard to turn the place into our vision of what a quaint village store should be, and I think we achieved that, at least that’s the feedback we received from many of our customers who were amazed with the dramatic change.
Over the next year we contemplated whether or not to keep the the post office that came with the store but over much deliberation we decided that it, along with The Post Office Ltd’s compulsory rules and regulations, was not a viable option.
And the prefabricated post office booth was removed from the premises invoking yet another refurbishment.
A new counter was installed and along with it came a new hot oven and cake displaying paraphernalia. I spoke to my Mother and Sister, both of whom are excellent cooks, and asked if they’d be interested in baking a little extra of they yummy dishes for our customers. They agreed and, not before long, the ‘Mamma Anna’ brand of breads, pizzas and panzerotti was born.
The ‘Mamma Anna’ line was complimented by a mouth watering array of home baked cakes, courtesy of my beloved sister, Francesca, featuring some old school favourites, such as fudge and cornflake tart. ‘The Home of Home Baking’ soon became the talk of the neighbourhood and we regularly served new customers who visited the store simply because they had been told about the good food. Naturally, these were welcome comments for my mother and sister who both had to get up at the crack of dawn to get the food ready for the early morning rush. In my sister’s case, it was also before getting in a car and off to work!
And so this was our life for nearly six years. I wanted a home and ended up inheriting a village store which proved to be a lifeline for many of the villager residents and, of course, the lazy so and sos who couldn’t be bothered to get in the car and drive into town for their daily paper.
But it’s true what they say; it takes all sorts. And we certainly met a variety of people. Some wonderful, warm people and some not so warm but often, I believed, perhaps needed a bit more in their lives. Yes, you know who you are.
Eventually, the recession bit and belts were tightened. To make matters worse, I found myself pumping more of my own cash into the store just to keep it going. The store had become an integral part of the community and I kept shying away from the thought of being the one to close it. However, we were all making a lot of sacrifices and for what? I had to draw the line somewhere, and I did. 2010 brought with it the realisation that the shop was way too much work than it was worth and in May I decided to close the doors. I drafted a letter to all our newspapers account customers and posted relevant notices in the store. I’d made up my mind the only question was, what happens next?