How tea, cake and rock and roll saved a struggling village newsagents

Peterborough village newsagents tea room at last
Store Profile RE Newspapers & Magazines Store management Hot food-to-go
By Jack Courtez Avatar
By Jack Courtez 08 Mar, 2018
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Marie and David "Mitch" Mitchell
Werrington Village Newsagent and "At Last" Tearooms
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
1,400sq ft

One-part American-diner themed bar, one-part newsagents and one-part classic tea room, Marie and David Mitchell have a shop like no other, but it wasn’t always this way.

The musicians purchased the shop as a traditional newsagent, only to find the stock just wasn’t selling. “We bought the stock with the shop and within three months even the tins were going off,” David says.

They responded by slashing any lines that weren’t selling until the store was back to basics; tea, coffee, sugar, soft drinks, confectionery, tobacco, cards and news.

Marie says: “Our first year in business was quite worrying. It was only the newspapers that were really keeping us going.”

The store benefits from strong morning paper sales and the home news delivery operation counts another 230 customers.

However, severe supply issues caused by their news wholesaler meant the store was losing more than £50 a week, but rather than accept declining sales, the couple began looking for new areas of demand.

“We got a coffee machine and a table and chairs out the front for when it was sunny,” David explains. “Customers used to say ‘if only you had an indoor space because there’s no place left in the town to meet’, that’s when we began to consider opening a tea room.”

Once the council backed the plan, the change of use and alcohol licence was approved in a couple of weeks, the store re-opened with a new mixed use and the change has been incredible. The shop now has more than 100 facebook reviews and a five star rating.

“Everybody keeps telling us that this is the place to meet now, groups of friends say they used to travel to go to other places but now they’ve got a place to go in their village,” says Marie.

The couple said introducing the different aspects of the store had helped to grow footfall and then convert it into as wide a sale as possible.

Marie said: “Having different parts of the business is really beneficial. Even people coming in just to pay their paper bills can be tempted with a coffee and cake.”

Borrowing from the DIY ethos of his punk roots, David researched, built and learnt how to run the food service element of the business from scratch, learning along the way.

Describing the process, he said: “It was difficult at first with waste but we’ve got it just about right now, to begin with you’ve got to be prepared to take it on the chin. Our main focus is making sure everything is as fresh as possible for the customer as it’s what they expect.”

As well as goods from Booker’s food service section, the store creates its own baked goods and also purchases cakes from a local start-up. Marie said: “We’re a new small business so we want to work with other small business, the better one of us do the better we all do.”

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By Jack Courtez Avatar
By Jack Courtez 08 Mar, 2018



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