As I said, Al had been considering getting another job for himself for the sake of his family life (just to mention at this point that there are no lines to read between; there is no marital crisis or disharmony here). The shop is not failing. He has, I will say, cut down on his hours this year – when his assistant Tim left for a full-time job, he didn’t replace him and closed the shop earlier in the day, which meant he had more time at home with the family after school and the money not taken was counterbalanced by not paying out.
Just to explain – the shop is always busiest in the morning. Then, it’s very quiet between about 1.30 and 3ish, then it picks up again, but it really is hardly worth being open for a couple of hours, sometimes you might take only a couple of pounds in that time. And after 4, it’s quiet again. Usually, that is, there’s some random days when customers are queueing to give you their money at ten to five, but that’s not the norm.
Back in the summer, Al was considering his options and came down to expanding the home delivery side – he has a website and offers free home delivery (and always has) but contemplated doing mail drops in local villages, each with a day for deliveries. It would not, obviously, be feasible to employ anyone to do them, but he and his father would fit them in. The other option (I’ve a bee in my bonnet, by the way, about “two choices.” Two or more options, one choice) was, as I said, to find a tenant. Al owns the shop outright and he spent several thousand pounds doing up the outside last year. Still some inside work to do, but it’s pretty sound. He had thought of shutting for a week or two during the autumn while it’s quiet to get on with the repairs and painting.
It had all been a lot to think about and he, quite calmly, snapped last Thursday. But it didn’t mean he’d given up on the business and he still wanted to find a tenant to take it on as a going concern. And one has come to him.
Tim worked for him for a couple of years. He was self-employed and it was useful to have some secure weekly income. But in the end, he decided to take a full-time job. It so happened that, on Thursday, his mother dropped in to town and discovered what was going on. Tim wasn’t enjoying his job at all and she reckoned he might be interested.
In short, he phoned that night and came to visit Al the next afternoon. He promised a decision on Sunday. And,
reader, she married h… – oh sorry, wrong story – they have come to an agreement and Al is beavering away this week to get the downstairs ready (new flooring and a repaint) and it will reopen next week.
Al has made no decisions on his own future yet, but there’s no hurry. They have enough coming in to get by and it’s early days.
The remarkable thing is the links between the events of now and eight years ago. Derek made a snap decision to close (thank goodness there is no similarity between reasons – I’m sorry to say that his daughter died a few weeks later) and so has Al. It was a chance visit by a customer (and parent of the shopkeeper-to-be) in each case and a decision and agreement was made within a few days. It was, for the incomer, a huge opportunity to make a positive move from a less than happy situation. It was a load off the mind of the outgoing shopkeeper, who was feeling really guilty about letting the customers down and losing a really important part of town centre shopping and community life.
Best of all, Tim is ideal. He and Al know each other really well and there is mutual trust. He knows the business and has realistic expectations – and probably ideas for opportunites too.
I can’t wait. I have been unable to buy supermarket veggies, I can’t bring myself to do so, and Dilly says the same. If I haven’t got it in the garden, we’ve been having frozen veg.
I still can’t get over the exact eight years – to the very week.