While many rural villages are losing services, the provider of a lifeline in one Northumberland community has reached a major milestone.
David Carr is celebrating 40 years as the boss of the village shop in Longframlington.
Born and bred at nearby Rothbury, he worked at the Askew store there from the age of 16 and became assistant manager. In 1973, following the departure of the manager at the firm’s Longframlington store, David was appointed as replacement aged 21 and within four years, he had bought the shop when the company shut down.
He said: “It was either that or be on the dole. I borrowed money from my granny, my mother, and scraped together enough money.”
Over the 40 years, the shop owner, now living in Longframlington, has got up at 3.30am to be in the shop for the milkman coming at 3.45am, and worked until around 6.45pm.
While in the early days, David would be able to put his feet up on a Sunday, the demands of customers have changed all that.
“One of the biggest things have changed is customers’ expectations. Now they expect us to be here 365 days a year.”
David is now often in the shop seven days a week – although only half days on a Sunday.
He also has time off on a Wednesday, which – having had a cancer scare five years ago – he spends helping in the garden at St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle.
David says another big change over the years has been a drop-off in his client base as a result of internet shopping.
He said: “It has eaten into our market, we are fighting for the scraps. When we first started we had a good solid base of 50. But now it is entirely fluid what we are getting.
“You do not know what you are going to get from one day to the next.”
Customer numbers have fallen because the fact that more people have cars means that many go further afield to shop.
However, the store’s location on the A697 is vital, with David explaining: “If we were not on a main road we would not be here. 40% of our turnover is passing trade.”
The shop has won a clutch of awards in recent times, including Wiseman’s Shop of the Year 2002 and Countryside Alliance Village Shop and Post Office of the year in 2006.
Just last week it won an award from Alnwick Rotary Club in recognition of its efforts in the community and supporting local charities.
One example is the delivery of prescriptions David and his staff have performed for patients of a pharmacy in Rothbury.
In one particularly bad recent winter, they even delivered for patients of farflung Harbottle surgery.
David has been unable to do deliveries himself since an undiagnosed illness in June, as a result of which doctors have ordered him not to drive.
However, he is still able to make the short walk to the shop.
Having clocked up four decades, David, now 61, is not considering retirement.
“I would like to think I can do to 50. I would like to settle it down a bit, it is not getting easier to run a business like that.
“After 40 years, you would think you would let someone else run the businesses but the margins are so tight.
“It begins to affect your health a little bit, there is no easy ways.
“How long I could keep going I do not know, I would like to think I could do another 10, I am fit otherwise.”