Rogate’s heart returns with a familiar face

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The heart has been put back into Rogate this week with the re-opening of the village shop and post office.

Owner Ann Arnold abandoned retirement after just nine months to rescue the business following the decision of leaseholder Peter Cragg to put up the ‘closed’ sign.

Mr Cragg, who manages South Harting’s community store, took over the lease of the Rogate shop in May last year but found, according to Ann: “It just did not work for him.”

So earlier this month he decided to close it – and within two days the former boss was back at the counter.

She said this week: “The shop is important but losing the post office was the worst thing for the village, so immediately I knew what was happening I contacted the Post Office so I could take it back.” “I was very lucky. Because I had seven previous years with a clean run, they interviewed me over the phone to make sure I still knew what was what.

“The shop closed on February 11 and I took over two days later. We had a week of sorting things out, last week I was open for newspapers and reintroducing stock, and this Monday was our first fully open day.

“And the response has been really excellent,” she added.

Mr Cragg had warned villagers that the shop was struggling and he appealed for their support. He had introduced new products and supported the community in many ways.

In a ‘use it or lose it’ message in this month’s parish magazine, he wrote: “Sadly, the shop is still not well supported and is far from being a viable business concern.

“It seems that despite our best efforts people are only interested in buying newspapers, tobacco, or lottery tickets, none of which are particularly profitable, nor are they what we set up in business to do.

“It is fully understood people will use the supermarkets for their main weekly shopping. However, I would strongly urge you to visit the village shop when you need a few bits. The shop needs to be profitable to be sustainable. While profits are never likely to be excessive, no business can continue to operate at a loss.”

Ann has pledged she will stay on for the time being but added: “After nine months I was just about getting used to being retired so getting up at 5.30am to do the newspapers is a bit hard.

“But coming back into the centre of the village is wonderful. A village shop is a real meeting place for people and that’s why it is so important to keep it going.”

Long-term, however, she has plans to turn it into a community shop so that it will be owned by the community and run by a manager and volunteers.

“We are doing some research on that at the moment,” she said.