The Village Shop

Here's a good post from the UK Motley Fool website Land Of Serious Topics board:-

The Corner/Village Shop

There has been a lot of press and media coverage about the demise of the corner and village shop. About how "big out of town" supermarkets are opening longer and using their buying power to undercut and hence put out of business the local shop.

Heres my perspective.

I live in a small rural village. At last count the population was 450. We have one primary school (with 65 pupils, but "catches" 3 other local villages, average class size 12) a small pub and a shop/post office.

Everyone seems to know each other, its a real close knit kinda place, almost stuck back in time. No one has mains sewerage, all septic tanks, and we only just piped gas. I only got it because I paid for it, most others still burn coal and wood. We moved here because we could buy a 5 bed detached house for 140K and have a few acres of land, and a good school.

Picture set? Right, lets move on...

Forgetting a petrol garage 8 miles away, the nearest grocery shop is Asda and thats a 18 mile drive, but its a fast road and can be done in 15 minutes.

So, on my way to work I like to buy a paper and perhaps a pack of smokes.

Tough, the "local" shop doesnt open until 0830 and I'm well gone by then.

How about the post office? Well, I do like to pop home for lunch. It gets you out the office. I could use that time to pay a few bills and send a few letters? Tough, you can't use the post office because its part of the shop and that closes at 12 - 1 for Lunch.

But hang on, its ok, they have a paper delivery service. For 25p extra on the price of a paper, you can have it delivered.

But why? By the time they deliver it to the house, I have left for work.

The only time I'd get to read them is weekends. That would be nice. Wake up with a cup of tea and read the papers? No. Why? Well on weekends its the paperboy's day off. No Saturday/Sunday papers.

I was in today to buy a paper (gotta be quick and early though, they only open 8 - 10 on a sunday, no lie ins for me) and got the 12th degree because I "have not been in a while". Do I have to be? Is it my duty? "Your shut when I goto work, shut when I get home from work, shut when I'm home for lunch". Blank stares all round.

Oh, and another thing. You can't just buy a paper in there.

No, there must be a rule (no one told me) that means you have spend at least 10 mins talking about your latest visit to the doctor. Or how little Jonny is struggling at school.

"Look, can I just give leave you money for this paper, its the right money".

"NO, I have to scan it, one minute please".

ARGH. The place shuts at 12 - 1 for lunch EVERY DAY. Hardly the cornerstone of techonolgy, but bar code scanners seem to have reached this place.

When I finally get the counter, I feel somewhat inadequate because I have nothing to say apart from "Thank you" when I leave.

Don't get me wrong, I like the village. I like the people. My son loves the school. I have a wierd relationship with my neighbours were within a few weeks of moving in, I had keys to their house "just in case".

The pub is fulled with old gentleman, the type that see a "young un" and stand up to offer me their chair. Very quaint and nice. I'll never move away.

But the shop. ARGH, the shop.

Asda gets all my trade now. All my newspapers, groceries and papers are bought from there.

Why? Well they open at 7am. They close at 10. No conversations entered into. In, and out, no fuss.

The village shop going down hill?

I'm not suprised.



Our village shop has many similarities.

It used to be just a butcher's shop but took over the function of a general store when the other shop closed. Later the butcher's sister-in-law started a post office in a corner.

The butcher opens from 8.30 am to 1 pm Monday to Friday, Thursday afternoon 2 pm to 5 pm, Friday afternoon 3 pm to 5 pm and Saturday morning 9 am to 1 pm. The post office opens from 9 am to 1 pm Monday to Friday, Thursday afternoon 2 pm to 5 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 12 noon. Different hours which can be confusing. The butcher does deliveries so perhaps that's why he is closed in some afternoons, but I don't know when his deliveries are.

The meat is reckoned to be good quality, although I hardly ever buy any as I live on my own. I would find the joints too big and the chickens are enormous. I do buy steaks for barbecueing, stewing steak, ham and faggots though.

The vegetables and fruit are of variable quality, sometimes very good, then they get old and dried up. The choice of bread is minimal. The rest of the store is mainly tinned food, cakes, fizzy drinks and household items.

I appreciate that he cannot compete with the choice in supermarkets eight miles away and he has trouble keeping food fresh.

His attitude seems to be "this is the way I've always done it and I'm not going to change now" sort of thing. The inspectors criticise him for having only one chopping table which they think he uses for fresh and cooked meat, but I know he is as careful as he can be. The shop is typically old-fashioned and a bit drab. When he retires the shop will either close or have to be taken over by someone with a town attitude to corner shops, open early and late.

The shop and post office is a good place for gossip and I will miss it, but it should be there for a few more years yet.

Despite not being open as people go to work or return home, it seems to make a reasonable living from older people and non-working housewives.