Not many people stay in their job for 40 years, but the owner of the village shop in Donington on Bain has done just that.
Jenny Ward, owner of J Ward in the village, is celebrating the milestone on January 31.
It all began with a chance find, when Jenny was travelling through the village taking friends home from a visit, and she saw the shop was for sale.
Quite fancying a change of direction, the family’s farm in Goulceby was sold and on January 31, 1973, they moved in.
Now 40 years on Jenny looks back on the many lasting memories she has from her time as the village’s shopkeeper.
In the first Autumn the shop quickly branched out, buying a green van for home deliveries. So customers who’d missed that vital item off their list, or could not get to the shop, could have them delivered to their door.
The van went everywhere, even to events like gymkhanas to help promote the shop.
Five years after taking over the business Jenny earned a license to sell alcohol, even videos were available to rent.
And 40 years after first opening, there have of course been many changes.
“When we first started we shut Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day as there were no papers,” Jenny said.
“Now papers are printed every day except Christmas Day, so we only really get one day a year off!”
“We sell anything and everything, and if it’s not in the shop, it may well be in the kitcken or may be something I can order in. Customers have often said ‘Jenny, you could sell snow to the Eskimos’.
The shop is so much more than just a shop to its loyal customers though. They held their first Christmas show in their front room shortly after opening, buying in toys, chocolates, books and more as early as October for a week, to give people the chance to put things away for Christmas.
In 1992 the shop was given a brand new floor, we used the van so customers could still shop. We left a slight slope up to the counter to give a bit of character, customers complained the shop wasn’t the same but the floor no longer squeaked so their complaints didn’t last.
Understandably, Jenny has many lasting memories from 40 years as a shopkeeper.
“Once during a sugar shortage we had to ration it out from a sack, and when the power has been down in the village we have baked bread and cakes for customers and tell them ‘our oven is always on’,” she said.
“I have known people tie their dog up outside, come in the shop and go home leaving the dog sat outside. Anybody having lost their pets would always come to me so I could spread the word among the customers.
“Being a shopkeeper you get to know your customers, and therefore the family problems,” Jenny continued.
“The joy of children being born, the sadness of death, we see all the trials and tribulations.
“We have watched customers grow up and get jobs, leave the village, get married and then bring their own children back.
“I always say the shop will stay open for my funeral,” said Jenny.
Jenny extends a big thanks to everyone who has helped over the years. Sue Crawford was the first helper who would go along on Fridays after school. Now Jenny has a well earned rest one morning a week when Lyn Parkinson steps in. Dave Fenwick of Louth, now retired, would keep the van on the road, and many more.
“I have a lot of people in the village who help me when I’m stuck, my customers are my big family and are always there for me. A big thank you to them all.”