Meet the couple behind the counter of Britain's best Post Office
West Boldon Post Office is celebrating after winning a major industry award.
It’s difficult to avoid the cliches as they’re all true. Entering the post office is like stepping back in time. Quaint. At the heart of the community.
Everyone who goes there knows each other. The sort of place you might see Miss Marple popping into.
Surprisingly it was only built in the 1980s.
At the glitzy Retail Industry Awards ceremony in London, it was named Independent Retail Post Office of the Year. This seems more impressive when you learn that its owners have only been in the industry a short while.
Sean and Katie Hudson took over the business in April 2017. Katie was an accounts clerk. Sean still has another job as a civil lawyer. They’ve been married for 29 years with two grown up daughters and lived in the village for over 20 years.
After visiting village stores elsewhere, seeing how friendly they were and their to communities, they thought they could do the same in West Boldon. So when they had the opportunity to buy the post office, they took it.
Sean said: “Neither of us had any retail experience. We’d worked in the licensing trade. I used to do relief work for Vaux Breweries.
“The counter had only been open for six months of the three years before we took over, although the shop was open. So we had a bit of a standing start.”
But what’s so special about it? Well to begin with, no reasonable customer could expect a village post office to do more. It opens seven days a week and provides the usual services. But that’s only part of it.
It’s the venue for many village events, the latest being the Macmillan Coffee Morning. As Remembrance Sunday approaches it will be central to the Boldons’ poppy display. It has stunning window displays at Halloween and Christmas.
The sheer range of goods and services on offer also sets it apart.
Sean added: “When people come in now they say it’s like a Tardis. They don’t expect this from the outside. It’s still small, but is has that feeling of space when people come in.
The post office also serves as newsagent and grocery and is licensed to sell alcohol. But there are more unusual services too.
They have a “ring-and-bring” service to less mobile customers who might not use computers. They place an order by phone and it’s delivered to them.
There’s a dry cleaning service and bespoke fresh fruit and veg. Boxes are prepared fresh from the market and delivered to the post office for collection each Saturday. Tea and coffee are available too. So is newspaper delivery, which is a rarity these days.
But the post office’s biggest asset is the personal touch that big stores simply cannot match.
Sean said: “One of the nicest things that people have said to us is that we’ve put the heart back into the community. That’s what we wanted the place to be.
“People take as much pride in this place as we do ourselves.”