What would Whaplode Drove be like without its Four Boys Village Store and Post Office in Broadgate?
The village, which takes its name from “the settlement by the road which the people of Whaplode used to drive their cattle to pasture”, according to historians, has four distinct community services.
St John the Baptist Church has services every Sunday, the Elizabethan Centre has hosted community events since 1981 and the W. H. Brand motor dealership has been a fixture in the village since 1925.
But Four Boys is a labour of love for owner Sue Mellish and her staff, as well as an essential part of Whaplode Drove in 2017.
Sue said: “My dream has always been to run a village shop and my family had a small one in Tydd St Giles.
“But I wanted to have a larger one and before I had my fourth son, I took over Four Boys when it was called Whaplode Drove Post Office.
“Then I decided to name it after the boys when I had my fourth son.”
Newspapers, groceries, household goods, bread and cakes, fresh fruit and vegetables, pet food and postal services are the staple diet of any village shop.
But Four Boys is also thinking strategically, having launched its own meal deal yesterday from when customers can buy a hot pie or cold sandwich, standard-sized packet of crisps and a bottle of soft drink, all for £2.99.
Sue said: “We’re at the heart of the community and if we’ve not seen somebody in here for a little while, we ask about them to see if they are alright.
If we’ve not seen somebody in here for a little while, we ask about them to see if they are alrightSue Mellish, owner, Four Boys Village Store and Post Office, Whaplode Drove
“People come in and talk to us, we look after the elderly and take care of everyone, even the horses.”
Four Boys has customers from Spalding and Wisbech, to Sutton St Edmund and neighbouring village Holbeach Drove.
Kim Coles, of Holbeach St Johns, said: “It’s so convenient having Sue here and I don’t mind helping her when stock for the shop is delivered.
“Last Friday, I came to the shop at 5.30pm when some stuff had been dropped off and I helped Sue put it away.
“Holbeach St Johns doesn’t have a shop so it would be a disaster if Four Boys shut.”
There is even a spirit of partnership working in Whaplode Drove when it comes to Four Boys and W.H. Brand, according to sales manager Adam Brand who said: “We’re customers of Sue’s and she’s a customer of ours.
“With the village being quite remote, people would have to travel so it’s pretty vital to have something like Four Boys Village Store and Post Office for the local community.
“If the shop closed, it would make a lot more work for us because we would have to travel further for the use of a post office.”
Sue has help in running the shop from her “Four Boys”, as well as lifelong Whaplode Drove villager Rita Tomizzi and part-time shop assistant Linda Warner, of Crowland.
Rita said: “I’ve worked here for 12 years, serving people who used to live in the village and have moved away, but who still come to support us.
“Sue is always thinking of adding new things to the shop and one of them is where we collect prescriptions from Abbeygate Surgery in Crowland and give them to the customers.
“We also deliver newspapers seven days a week and when they are in season, we sell strawberries and raspberries.”
The Reverend Richard Morrison, Priest-in-Charge of St John the Baptist Church, said: “It’s wonderful having my newspapers delivered early in the morning and the shop is always a nice, friendly place to get a lot of shopping done.
“It’s an invaluable community resource where people can bump into each other and have a chat.”
But Sue Mellish knows the true value of Four Boys Village Store and Post Office to Whaplode Drove better than anyone.
She said: “It’s my livelihood, I love it, my staff are reliable and we’re just like one, big, happy family.”