GREENFIELD SHOPKEEPER Jill Stanford could pass on a few tips to High Street retail guru, Mary Portas.
After all, she’s just celebrated a landmark anniversary in the greengrocery trade, overcoming personal and business issues to serve the village for three decades on Greenbridge Lane.
The mum of two, 55 and a breast cancer survivor for more than 20 years, is not ready to hang up her apron just yet even though she admitted the ‘R’ word has been raised.
“I love what I do and I love the people,” says Jill. “But we (Jill and husband Jim) have tentatively, for the first time, mentioned retirement.”
However, before her loyal customers start panicking, she adds: “But not yet! We will review in two years’ time and see how we feel.
“It’s important for the community these little shops don’t close. They are meeting points and sometimes when it is bleak in the winter, we are the only faces some people see.”
While Margaret Thatcher may not have been top of everyone’s Christmas card list, the former Prime Minister’s government helped Jill set up in premises previously home of the old Co-op bakery and owned by her father-in-law.
“Providing you could raise your own £1,000, they would give you £40 a week to start a new business for 12 months,” she explained.
“That was an awful lot of money at the time but Jim worked for an engineering company and they wanted redundancies. We discussed it and he decided to put himself forward.
“We might have been a bit naïve but I had no doubt the business was going to survive and flourish.
“All our holidays for 10 years was in a freebie caravan. At the end of two years we did a review and realised we had a strong little business.
“I remember the first time I bought half a stone of cod and a slice of salmon. I was scared to death if it didn’t sell it wouldn’t keep. I sold out by 10.30am and thought there was definitely a niche.”
Not even Jim breaking his back, the birth of their second daughter, her own cancer battle and the arrival of Tesco on Chew Valley Road could keep Jill away from her counter for too long.
“When Tesco came to town we just perceived everything would end. But it didn’t,” continues Jill. “While I get less business at the start of the week, the end is so much busier.
“Now there are four of us on a Saturday and it feels like you have had a workout in a gym.”
Jill supplies fresh produce to Saddleworth School and a variety of local pubs and restaurants. They also offer free local delivery and Jim is often pressed into service as an odd job man on his rounds.
And daughters Victoria and Ellie have both worked in the shop, adopting the same friendly service offered by mum.
“Most of all I owe my success to the people of Greenfield,” says Jill. “You treat people how you want to be treated yourself so I must have done something right all these years.”