Village people - Dawn Hall & Janine Watts

The controversial sale of The Ship and opening of the new Co-op store has been the talking point of the village for the last few months. And while many villagers have been lamenting the loss of the pub, their biggest concern has been the future of the much loved Wealden Stores.

But rest assured – store owners Dawn Hall and Janine Watts have no intention of shutting up shop. On the contrary the pair are fighting back with exciting new products and plans for the future, spurred on by the support and good wishes of the village community.

By Claire Cooper

Dawn and Janine came to Cuckfield from Colchester in September 2000, buying the Wealden Stores and moving into the adjoining house with their five young children.

“We shared a dream of moving to a village and running two ‘lifestyle’ businesses,” said Dawn. “We began looking in Sussex and when we came to Cuckfield we fell in love with the location. The Wealden Stores had everything we were looking for – two businesses (the post office and shop) and huge accommodation with seven bedrooms - plenty of space for our two growing families.”Despite having no experience in running a shop, the pair took the plunge. “It was a very steep learning curve and we relied on the existing staff to show us the ropes,” said Janine.

Initially Dawn and Janine kept the shop as it was, focusing on getting up to speed with running the business. Then it was time for a few cosmetic changes. “The shop was a little run down and tired, sort of shabby without the chic!” said Dawn. “We spruced it up and then began to change and increase the stock.”

Then there were the early starts to get used to! Dawn and Janine’s day starts at 5.30am when the daily papers are delivered and sorted. The doors open at 7am, to catch the early morning trade, closing at 5.30pm. The store is open every day, including Sunday from 8am to 12 noon. “What we originally thought was a lifestyle business actually took over our lives but it’s been worth it!” said Dawn. 

Read full article on pages 10 & 11.