It isn’t always easy working in a newsagents, but as retirement approaches Sheila and Leslie Stratford of Church Lane News say they are looking forward to their first real holiday in more than 21 years.
The couple, who live on Bloxham Road, are set to close their store for good on Saturday, July 18, prompting dismay among loyal customers for whom the shop has become a home away from home.
“We are going to miss the people terribly because we have a large community of customers that have been coming here for years,” said Mrs Stratford, 73. “It is like a community shop really.”
“I get lots of lonely people who have lost their wives or husbands and if they are need help I help them. We try to cheer people up.”
The sprightly 73 year-old worked in accountancy until 1990 when she got together with husband and former site agent Leslie to open their first newsagent together on Walton Street, Oxford in 1990.
“We wanted to do something we could do together and that is why we decided it was the best thing to go into retail”, said Mrs Stratford.
But after four years of busy trading the duo decided the pace of business in the university town was not for them and upped sticks for Church Lane, in the heart of Banbury’s Old Town.
“It has been really good up until two to three years ago,” said Mr Stratford, 75. “But I think businesses like ours are struggling in the town.”
A big challenge, Mr Stratford added, was diversifying the business and going beyond the traditional retail offering of cigarettes, newspapers and magazines and sweets. Mrs Stratford, an accomplished knitter, sells her creations over the counter and to order- a side business and hobby she is looking forward to continuing beyond her retirement.
Her husband, on the other hand, is looking forward to putting his feet up.
“We hardly ever get to be at home,” he said. “We hardly even know what it’s like!”
“Everybody has been lovely,” Mrs Stratford added. “They have told us they will miss us but in the end we are both in our 70s and have been lucky to stay as well as we have been.”