From banker to postmaster: meet the Suffolk woman who bought her local shop
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
A Suffolk woman who spent the majority of her career working for banks decided to buy and run her local village shop after hearing it could be sold for housing.
Ruth Crockett says her life now involves dashing down to the wholesalers when the shop is low on cigarettes instead of creating risk assessment models for banks or lecturing students on AI.
In the spring 2015, at the age of 66, Ruth decided that she would buy Hitcham Post Office and Stores while still working part time for HSBC.
"It wasn't a serious plan or anything," she said. "It was more of a complete inability to walk away from it."
Unfortunately, Ruth found herself made redundant from her then part-time bank job, which meant she was able give it all her attention.
She described the shop she bought as "tatty looking" with a holes in the floor and worms all over the place.
She said: "I didn't realise how much time, real solid time and attention I was going to have to put in just to keep things turning over properly."
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Though the shop is now in a better state, it is still only where Ruth hoped it would be about five years ago.
Right from the start, the shop was meeting some of its targets, but missing many more and Ruth was aware of how narrow the profit margins are.
The "non-stop nature" and the fact that problems come from everywhere made it difficult to make more long-term changes.
One unexpected challenge was the Covid-19 pandemic.
There would be a queue at the wholesalers well before 7am and then it was a race between everyone to get supplies.
"You had to decide whether to dash for the loo paper or dash for the bread, because you wouldn't get both," the Oxford graduate said.
The shop also ended up buying flour in large sacks and doled it out by the kilogram because they couldn't get packaged flour at the time.
A positive outcome was the many people from the local community found out about the shop and it is "in a stronger position" now.
Ruth added: "My goal is to make the shop a little bit more able to stand on its own feet.
"I would like to get it maybe two steps further, so that it was incontrovertibly able to pay its way without me working 20 hours in the post office."
A click and collect system is one of the possibilities being considered to help achieve this.
For now, Ruth has nine years left on the lease and a long to-do list, but in a few years she said she will be looking at someone to take it over.