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How we bought a post office

Interview with...

Darren Houghton
Web Designer and IT Manager
Business name:
Post Office
Post Office
When bought:
Few months ago
Price paid:
£32k plus stock

What started out as a holiday turned into a reconnaissance mission for Darren Houghton and his wife.

Three months on from a break on the southwest coast they were the proud owners of a post office. "We wanted to work for ourselves. We really wanted the lifestyle change," explains Darren, who had previously worked as a web designer and IT manager for a furniture retail company in Derbyshire. His wife had been a mortgage advisor for the Halifax.

"We came to Devon on holiday and just fell in love with the place.

Don't be afraid of being a little bit ruthless in your decision-making

Darren Houghton, Post Office owner

"We were thinking about moving anyway. We started looking for houses and jobs and then this place came up."

Sheer determination

The couple found the business through a private seller advert on Darren, 34, says the process was fairly hassle-free as no external agents were involved.

"We spoke to our solicitor, gathered a lot of information from the internet and spoke to a few other people about the move and buying a business."

"Our sheer determination to do something different propelled us."

To ensure they were paying the right price Darren and his partner looked closely at how the business had performed over the past few years and how it was faring at the time of purchase, as well as what changes had been made, before taking the plunge.

"We also took into account the accommodation which came with the property, and the area in which it was situated," he adds.

"What really made us think was whether we could recoup everything we spent in the first year after five years of trading.

"We worked out we were going to be able to do this, so we knew we were paying a good price. However, for us, it wasn't really about the money - it was all about location."

Since moving into their new abode, Darren and his family (Darren has an eight-year-old son) have been overwhelmed by the local support.

"As we were establishing ourselves, the locals were incredibly friendly - they have welcomed us with open arms.

"Strangely enough," Darren adds, "it is the previous owners who have given us the most helpful advice.

"They've been great, and have continued to support us since we arrived. We still call them with our problems and they are happy to help us out."

Life in the shop is highly agreeable.

"The really good thing about this move is that now, we both have more confidence in our own abilities.

"We are also learning from our mistakes. I mean we aren't making that many; we've both had a lot of experience in retail so we generally know what we're doing.

"However, the most important thing is that we don't have a boss telling us what to do anymore."

More family time

Not only have Darren and his wife got their shop off to a good start and are now living in one of the UK's most sought after locations, the move has had a positive impact on their family life.

"Things have definitely improved," admits Darren.

"The business has brought my wife and I closer together. We spend much more time together, and now spend more time with our son and our pets.

"We can now take it in turns to take him to school.

"We do a lot more now as a family than we did previously. Everything is working out really well now we're in business together.

Yet, despite moving to the corner of the country, they haven't damaged their friendships in Derbyshire.

"We keep in regular contact with people and go back to Derbyshire, or friends visit here, frequently.

Clearly contented, Darren is effusive to the end of the interview.

"This place has got everything we wanted: Countryside, a rural community, and we are free from the rat race - that's what we were so keen to get away from.

"We are 20 minutes from the beach and 10 minutes from Dartmouth. It provides the perfect opportunity to be able to do things when you want to do them, rather than when you have time."

And, to top it all off, they " are the only shop in the village and our nearest competition is two miles away!"

They couldn't ask for more.

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