Retirement is proving to be a hectic time of life for Alec Gardner and his wife, Lyn. Not only have they set up shop again, but the couple have just picked up Budgens Shop of the Year award.
After 35 years of running CTN stores in London’s East End, the Gardners retired in 2001. But it didn’t take Lyn long to come home one day and announce that she had a job working in a card shop.
That news was all the incentive that Gardner needed to search for a new project to occupy his time.
The couple eventually found a run-down village store and post office in East Bergholt, Suffolk, and they took on the massive task of converting a 400-year-old house and 120-year-old store to the high standards they demand.
When they looked at the 700 sq ft store, Gardner could hardly believe it was a going concern, but he said: “We knew it had the potential and have put in a lot of hard work and investment to get it looking like it appears today.
“Although we had experience in the CTN trade we have had to learn a great deal about fresh produce, grocery and beers, wines and spirits.”
He said that the help that Budgens had
given them was fantastic. “In addition, we’ve had total support from the villagers,who are delighted to have such an amenity in the centre,” Gardner said.
The couple extended the store to 1,500 sq ft and it opened officially in November 2003.
The Gardners are clearly revelling in their new occupation and Gardner is continuing to develop the fresh produce, meat and grocery range on offer, while Lyn runs the post office.
The hard slog has paid off in terms of job satisfaction, but over the past few months the Gardners and their highly motivated staff have also reaped tangible rewards.
In January, they picked up Budgens Shop of the Year award, as well as the Fresh Meat award.
In addition, their local council created a new award in recognition of the store’s Christmas window display.