In September 2007 when we completed the purchase of Ludwell Stores we were under the mistaken impression that we were buying a shop. It soon became obvious that we were buying something far more complicated and that it would not be ours until we had proven ourselves worthy. A village shop is a curious entity very much greater than the sum of its parts. It is a village green, a lost and found, a place for meeting and greeting, for organising events, for finding help, for swapping recipes, for passing news; and you can buy groceries. As the proprietors you are nothing without the goodwill and support of the community and if you get it wrong you own nothing.
I lost my lovely Mum to aggressive cancer this year. She was a gentle person with a generous heart but she was very anxious when Phil and I first announced that we were off to buy a village shop. We had previous success at throwing our life in the air and seeing where it landed, but for her this was a toss too far. Nevertheless, she magnanimously trekked cross-country from Essex to provide practical assistance whenever we were desperate. One particularly busy Monday morning we put her on phone duty, and she accepted a call from a local gentlemen asking if we sold “patty”.
“Paté?”, said my mother, all pure vowels and telephone voice. “Yes, of course!”.
“No putty!” answered the gentleman.
My mother looked bewildered as I nodded encouragingly at her. “Yes, apparently that too!”, she replied. She was in her very own “Two Ronnies” sketch and dined out on this story for years. She could never quite believe the diversity of the range and services crammed into the tiny space.
When our predecessor, the lovely Cherry Renshaw, finally handed over the keys she also gifted us a scruffy green rope dog lead. “You’ll need this,” was her passing shot. Phil and I rolled our eyes and hung it on a peg. It was not the only thing that Cherry left and we assumed that it was just another piece of Ludwell flotsam. How wrong we were. In those early years we were the repository for every lost and wandering dog in the parish. We have also herded swans, hares, chickens, sheep and cows off the A30 and have provided advertising space for all manner of missing pets from ferrets to peacocks. It has always been a community service and has also provided plenty of amusing chatter.
Some years ago when Mel Blanc, the voice of Warner Brothers died, a poster was published of Bugs Bunny and the other WB Greats standing silently around an unattended microphone. The caption read “Speechless”. I was reminded of this poster during the first week of the 2020 Spring lockdown. Suddenly without the ebb and flow of babbling customers Ludwell Stores was rendered speechless. We allowed one customer to shop at a time, which was fraught with pressure on both sides of the counter. It was military and miserable. However, we were saved by a wonderful band of local volunteers who stepped up like a flotilla of tiny boats to marshal and deliver and assist. It soon became obvious that the shop had not lost its voice but that the chatter had just moved outside. There was conversation and laughter, new friends were made and new contacts established by the side of the A30. The volunteers kept the soul of the shop alive when we were just too frantic to do it ourselves. We are hugely thankful to all those who lent a hand.
We have always been blessed with extraordinary support from our team, from our customers, from our suppliers and from our long-suffering family. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes many villages to sustain a village shop. Every success that the Stores has achieved, from winning Village Shop of the Year to simply being a healthy small business bobbing about in the local economy, is the result of collaboration. We are very fortunate to be a part of something so much larger than ourselves.
Orignially published in The Donhead Digest Winter 2021/2022.
Post Office Glenmoray, Ludwell, Shaftesbury, SP7 9ND | 01747 828227
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