Support your local Hertfordshire shops
PUBLISHED: 17:46 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:14 20 February 2013
Independent village shops face tough competition from town centre businesses and the ever-increasing number of supermarkets. Vicky Goode talks to the owners of eight Hertfordshire village stores about what your support means to them
Ah, village life... ambling along the high street to pick up your newspaper each morning, stopping to greet the dogwalker, the postman, the lady hanging out washing, and hearing the local news from your friendly shop-keeper... Only of course, village shops are closing. Then village life is never the same again.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England estimates that 400 more village shops will close this year. Country pubs are shutting down at the rate of 13 each week. Rural England has lost one-fifth of its post office network since 2000.
But for some lucky villages the local shop is thriving perhaps because of a heightened recognition that if you dont use it, you lose it.
We spoke to eight village shopkeepers in Hertfordshire and discovered that local people are very aware of their contribution to a thriving community, while those keeping the shop door open feel valued and appreciated.
Anita Kumar, who runs The Corner Stores in Kimpton with her husband Sanjay, says, We are the only shop in the village and we make sure its open come shine or snow. Its a wonderful village to be part of and its an absolute joy to work here.
My father opened a shop in a little shed 24 years ago, then it was enlarged and modernised and we took over seven years ago.
Anita always knew the shop and its post office were appreciated, but when she became ill with a brain haemorrhage last autumn, she was overwhelmed by the response of village people. There were so many cards and flowers, so many warm-hearted messages. But thats what this village is like people look out for each other. Its tight-knit and were at the heart of it!
For David Standing, who runs Weston Post Office & Stores, part of the secret of a village shops success if that it provides a friendly personal service greeting people, saying goodbye, which they wont find at a supermarket. Weve also kept in touch with changing tastes since we came here 11 years ago, he adds, and we listen to requests from customers. Weve moved over to free range eggs and local bacon and sausages, and if someone wants a particular cheese Rustic Sharpham was one request, Blacksticks Blue another we go out of our way to find it for them.
A shop is an essential amenity for a village. Some come every day and it becomes a meeting place where people chat. Many go out of their way to use the post office rather than go on-line, to ensure it stays open.
Hunsdon recently won the Village of the Year award as a good social centre. Hunsdon Stores is its only shop and post office and is sited on the picturesque village green. It too is a village hub. Hemi Patel says: It is very much appreciated and we try to give a good service. We have benches outside where people chat, and local elderly people come along on mobility scooters and find it very helpful. We have a charity Coffee Morning here each year too.
Everyone looks out for each other. It hardly feels like shopping, its like a family getting together every morning. Its fun being here.
Its a similar story of appreciative shoppers at Walkern Stores and Post Office, run by Paresh and Seema Chandarana. People enjoy talking over the counter, and they even look in to say hello if theyre not shopping. If we havent seen someone, we pop in to make sure they are okay.
The shop is very much part of the community and we sponsor the cricket club. Older people especially say that with only two or three buses a day, the village shop is important to them. We provide a free prescription collection service for them too.
The post office at the convenience store Bartholomew of Bedmond seemed to be under threat of closure, like so many others, but thanks to local support is still serving the community. Angela Bartholomew, who has run it for ten years with her husband Julian, says: People very much appreciate having their village post office and a friendly service. They are all so pleasant and friendly, and tell us the store is an asset for the village.
The Village Stores at Pirton is equally valued. Its the only shop and post office, and is very well patronised. We try to stock anything people might need, and we also have a post office which is well supported.
This is a community minded village. If someones lost a dog or wants to know anything, they come here. Our staff are all local and they know well either have the answer or know someone who does!
The Bridge Shop in Stanstead Abbotts is one among several businesses in this large village, where residents express appreciation for the community spirit and amenities. Harshika Patel says, Its a beautiful village, and people are very supportive.
Codicote is a large village with several shops, including The Red House which stocks everything from magazines to wool, to toys, cards and flowers. Diana Morley, who runs it with husband Richard, says: Its very nice that we have a central core of shops which bring the community together. There are three sheltered housing places and their residents particularly appreciate the local shops. Weve seen a lot of changes in the 32 years we have been here but we are still delivering newspapers to some of our original customers.
The village shop, it seems, is one endangered species that people are determined to protect.