Saturday, 22 January 2011

In Praise of Bob

This poster has made my day.

At the end of November Bob Wherlock, our local butcher, lowered his shutters for the last time. He and his staff had reached the age of retirement and, although we wished them well, his customers were devastated by the loss. There was some confusion over who, if anyone, would take over the business and, as the weeks passed and the shutters remained down, I grew less and less hopeful that the shop would ever reopen. So imagine my joy when I saw this poster taped to the shuttered window this morning.

That's the thing about local shops. They're so much more than glass fronted temples to consumerism with their brights lights, interminable rows of shelves, overpackaged goods and promotional displays urging you to buy more than you need; where you can walk in, around and out without exchanging even a word with another human being.

Going to Bob's was a Saturday morning ritual (supplemented by the odd weekday fix). There was usually a queue, but it didn't matter when the chances were you knew someone in it, or were entertained by the good natured banter between staff and customers. It was a place to catch up on local gossip, pick up recipes, ask for advice, share a joke, or even sample a new product. Christmas was even more special with the queue looping round the shop, winding out the door and snaking up the street. Customers disappeared, returning with takeaway coffees, and on at least one occasion Bob organised live music. I never once heard anyone complain. A couple of hour's wait was a fair price for a succulent roast on Christmas Day. When was the last time time you heard the same of a supermarket?

If anyone needed convincing of what Bob and his team meant to Bedminster then they need only have stuck their head through the door during that last week of trading. Cards crowded every available surface and the chiller cabinet was packed with of bottles of wine. There were hugs and kisses and not a few tears. A sad day for the street.

So I wish Bob's successor well. If he lives up to the claims on his poster then I for one will be a very happy customer.


  1. Hope you are as satisfied with the new shop as you were with Bob's.

  2. Thanks Karin. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the new shop compares with the old.

    I caught the tail end of an interesting item on yesterday's news. Apparently sales figures for specialist food shops (master butchers, aristsan bakers etc) are on the increase and are breathing new life back into local high streets. This is good news for us with the looming prospect of a Sainsbury's superstore just round the corner.

    You can read the report here -