Stephen Barker jokes that he walked into his wife’s sweet shop a customer and ended up a husband.
Customers at Stephen and Pamela’s new sweet shop in Long Sutton might also end up with more than they expected.
For the older generation, the deliberately old-fashioned interior might prompt a trip down memory lane to childhood visits to their own local sweet shop.
While for youngsters there will be the surprise of finding they can still buy penny sweets – three of them in what is loosely termed the ‘penny mix’ section of the shop.
It was when visiting the town as a potential retirement destination that Pamela first said: “This place has got everything but a sweet shop.”
Since then, they have been busy renovating a derelict property to live in, and finally opened Barker’s Sweets in Foresters Hall on the town’s High Street in August.
Strangely, Stephen also has a history with sweet shops – his grandmother opened a Post Office and general stores, which included sweets, in Essex in 1934.
Stephen’s father ran the shop in conjunction with his mother, taking over in the 1950s. He was still working in the shop when he died at 66.
Stephen says the whole family helped out in the shop during busy times, Stephen as a telegram boy– he still treasures the telegram pouch he used then.
However, Stephen had a completely different career as a livestock farmer in Essex, only retiring in 2012 after sustaining an injury in an accident.
He and Pamela, who are coming up to their fourth anniversary, decided then to retire to Lincolnshire.
The shop in what was previously an accountant’s office has been renovated by its owners, though the listed building retains its original coloured leaded lights. Pamela and Stephen have added charm with 100 old-fashioned jars of traditional sweets and a display of hand-made artisan fudges.
Stephen would have loved to have used the kind of scales used by his father and grandmother, but says: “We are electronic sadly.”
Then there are the ice creams, the ‘penny mix’, wrapped sweets, sugar-free options plus drinks in the chiller cabinet.
Stephen says: “We are led by our customers and if three people ask for a particular item we will source it for them.”
They stock Jakemans sweets, which are produced in Sutterton, and would like to sell more locally made produce. In fact, someone who once ran a sweet shop in the town has been in touch and offered to give them a list of her old suppliers, so Barker’s Sweets may have a few more surprises in store yet.