Bill Riddell: “I want to stop here.”
Oxenholme’s only shop and post office is up for sale after its owner decided he could no longer afford to cover its losses.
Bill Riddell, 63, ploughed thousands of pounds of retirement savings into Oxenholme Stores but says not enough customers use it. He has now taken up another job and daughter Dawn is running the Helmside Road business until it sells. Mr Riddell re-opened the shop in March 2010 after it been closed for more than a year and re-introduced a vital Post Office service. As well as pensions, letters and parcel postage, he introduced cash withdrawal and bank deposit facilities to encourage shoppers.
An upset Mr Riddell said: “It’s a venture I tried and it hasn’t worked. I’m not making any money here so I’ve got another job. I want to stop here. I’ve ploughed so much into it – cash wise and time. I’ve been doing 100 hour weeks but I enjoy it. The customers are good and we have a good laugh. The children in the village that come in for sweets are fantastic – well-mannered and well-behaved.”
The time-served joiner said the shop’s stock is reducing as he cannot afford to continue filling shelves as before. During their time, the father and daughter team tried new initiatives like hot pies, the National Lottery and over-the-counter Euros as well as stocking old corner shop necessities like safety pins, cotton reels, pegs and puncture repair kits. During the heavy snows and icy conditions of recent winters, Mr Riddell doorstep delivered to many of Oxenholme’s elderly residents when bus services stopped running and village roads and pavements were covered by drifts or sheet ice.
“Unfortunately, when the Post Office goes they [customers] will be back to where they were three-and-half years ago – having to go into town [Kendal],” explained Mr Riddell. “People do want a local shop and post office but don’t use it enough.”
Oxenholme resident and former councillor, John Bateson, said: “It’s very disappointing and naturally I hope someone’s takes it on. It’s very important to have a post office in the village.”
Commercial sales company, Hilton Smythe, described the shop as “the hub of the community” and said the leasehold business has seven years remaining on the 10-year-lease with rent at £14,500-a-year reviewed annually.
Oxenholme is also served by a Texaco garage.
Reporter: Ellis Butcher
Published by: Westmorland Gazette, 22 August 2013