Moving on from a Caister institution after 38 years

MORE than 12 hours a day, seven days a week for nearly four decades – they’ve put in the worktime, and now the owners of a Caister shopping institution are finally giving themselves a break.

Since they took over, Barry and Lorraine Platten have seen Offords convenience store quadruple in size, gain a Post Office, and grow from a staff of three to ten.

But after exactly 38 years of running the Yarmouth Road shop, often only taking a break for Christmas, on Monday they finally decided to call it a day.

For grandparent Barry, 64, it has not been too difficult a decision.

Barry, who has often got up at 5.30am and worked through until 9pm said: “You’re never away from it, one hiccup and you’re always the bottom line, and this will be freedom from that.

“It will be quite easy to walk away, and I think it’s time for new ideas and an improvement; but that said, I’ve loved it all, and I’ve loved what I sell.”

The couple first opened the shop, where they initially lived, just two days after their wedding at Acle Register Office and for the first seven years did not have a single day of holiday.

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Born and bred in the area, with a strong family background in the local tourism trade, Barry recalls a golden era in the 1970s when the village was still in the prime of its holiday resort pomp.

In fact, there was a family feel behind the counter, with Barry’s late father Harry working in the shop alongside other family members of the same generation.

With much-loved comedians and entertainers often dropping in between tour dates, over this time the couple branched out from confectionery and tobacco into selling newspapers, building up a loyal fan base and adding the post office.

And it was often the case that while Barry ran the shop, Lorraine cared for their three children.

Andrea Calvert, 35, is their eldest daughter. She recalls: “I remember it seemed like a life of luxury, growing up in the shop with sweets and chocolate everywhere.

“Dad is a workaholic, but it’s always been for the family, and we’ve been nagging at him to retire by the time he’s 64.”

Seeing other rivals come and go and supermarkets spring up in the area, Offords has remained competitive.

It is something that Barry puts down to familiar faces at the till.

“We’ve survived with customer loyalty. You will get people coming in when they’re on holiday and buying all their birthday cards for the year,” he said.

“However, you’ve got to be dedicated. In the 17 years before we moved out I never went upstairs to take my work break, apart from my dinner.”

Now they plan to go abroad more often, with cities like Rome and Budapest on their hit list, and follow their beloved Norwich City more closely.

“It’s payback time,” Barry added.