The Whittle Shop in Whittlesford

The Village Shop08:24 Thursday 12th May 2011
Mid-Morning Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY HARPER: With Tesco getting the final go-ahead to open an Extra store in Great Shelford, some local people have voiced concerns that this will hit other local shops in the village very hard. At the same time, a village shop in neighbouring Whittlesford has just been reopened by Paul and Beverley Matthews, who’ve been running Falkner Stores in nearby Sawston for 25 years. So we wondered what goes to make a successful local shop. With this in mind, our reporter Suzi Roberts pumped along to Whittlesford to find out. (TAPE)
SUZI ROBERTS: What a picture perfect village Whittlesford is. There’s loads of lovely little houses, and it’s got a real olde worlde village feeling. And as you walk along the High Street, here’s something which is perhaps a little bit of a dying breed, a village shop. And this one has just reopened, and it’s bucking the trend. Here, as if by magic, is the owner of the Whittle Shop, Beverley Matthews. Beverley, tell me about this lovely little shop.
BEVERLEY MATTHEWS: Well we’ve been sort of open about three weeks now. The village were in danger of losing their shop, because the previous tenants decided they wanted to move on, to do something else. So it was put an idea to us to see whether we actually wanted to take over the shop, because we’ve already got one in Sawston, And our initial idea was no, too much like hard work. But then after we sat down and had a think about it, we thought well, OK. The village needs a shop, and it would be fairly straightforward for us to do it.
SUZI ROBERTS: So how difficult is it to run a village shop? Because obviously if you live here, it’s the most handy thing in the world to pop round and get your pint of milk or whatever. But they are a bit of a dying breed.
BEVERLEY MATTHEWS: Well maybe in some cases. But I think Whittlesford is a big enough village to warrant having its own shop. And the fact that we’ve got the Post Office here is an added bonus. As long as we can encourage everybody to come in and use the shop and the Post Office, then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue for a long time.
SUZI ROBERTS: So have you taken on the Post Office as well?
BEVERLEY MATTHEWS: No. Christmas McSweeney is the postmistress, and she is continuing to do that.
SUZI ROBERTS: Now if I can just commandeer some of your customers, I’ll find out what they think of your new shop. (TO CUSTOMER ONE) Do you live in this village?
SUZI ROBERTS: And so what difference does it make to be able to nip out and just get something.
CUSTOMER ONE: Well you don’t have to get the car out.
SUZI ROBERTS: Exactly. And you’re not having to go to a big supermarket.
CUSTOMER ONE: No. No. It’s got everything that we need, so.
CUSTOMER TWO: It’s amazing. It’s really good to have a village shop again.
SUZI ROBERTS: So has it been something that you think people have missed?
CUSTOMER TWO: Yes. Definitely.
SUZI ROBERTS: And what difference does it make to people, just to be able to come and get their stuff here without having to go to the supermarket?
CUSTOMER TWO: A lot of difference for the older people. Definitely.
CUSTOMER THREE: I use this Post Office, because I work around this area, so ..
SUZI ROBERTS: Paul is the man himself. Look, he’s still putting bits and bobs up. What have you got here?
PAUL MATTHEWS: I’m a carpenter today.
SUZI ROBERTS: So this here is part of some sort of display?
PAUL MATTHEWS: For our cards. Yes. Tidy them up, so people can see them a bit better. Yes.
SUZI ROBERTS: You’ve been open, what, three weeks. Going well so far?
PAUL MATTHEWS: Yes. It’s been building each day or so. More stock has been coming in, and we’re getting a bit more organised. Don’t know if I’ll ever be organised, but it’s getting better, yes. Everybody seems to be happy.
SUZI ROBERTS: And so you’re bucking the trend a bit aren’t you? Because a lot of businesses still struggling financially, but you on the other hand are opening a small business.
PAUL MATTHEWS: (The wholesalers) have helped out a bit by spreading the payments of the stock. So we were able to get more in than we would have been able to otherwise. We’ve got second-hand fridges and freezers. That we’re very pleased with. And .. we’ve got to pay for it now. So we need a few customers. (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: That was Suzi Roberts in the village of Whittlesford. We were told about the shop reopening. We though it would be worth sending our reporter along to go and have a look, and I know that people did contact us when the shop closed for a brief period of time. We were contacted straight away by people saying, look, it is going to reopen again, but the crux of the matter really is it has to be used. Nipping in for a pint of milk and a copy of your paper is not going to keep that business going. So if the people of Whittlesford and the surrounding area want to keep that shop going, then they really do need to use it.