Former owners return to Looe post office
A LOOE post office has been saved from potential closure after the former owners were legally obliged to return behind the counter.
The future of the post office on Fore Street, East Looe, looked uncertain after the previous sub-postmaster admitted stealing thousands of pounds from the accounts to prop up the jewellery store he ran alongside it.
But now Bob and Andrea Mildenhall, who owned the business between 2004 and 2010, have taken the business back on and are determined to make it a success.
"We didn't exactly choose to come back but we will make it work," Mrs Mildenhall said.
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A clause in the lease of the premises, known as an authorised guarantee agreement (AGA), meant that when the last owner fell behind on his rent payments, the Mildenhall's became responsible for the tenancy once again.
"If the present tenant defers on the rent, the landlord comes to the previous owner," Mrs Mildenhall explained.
"We got legal advice and found out there was nothing we could do about it and we are now stuck with it for the rest of the lease, which ends in 17 years."
The couple, who gave up the business to semi-retire, say they had to take back the business to recoup their losses.
"We had to pay the rent whether we were here or not. It would be foolish to pay it without getting anything back," Mrs Mildenhall said.
The couple have invested all their savings into making it a success.
"We also had to pay for a dilapidation report and now we have to do all the work because the property was not maintained. With the rent, fees and all the repairs we're probably looking at more than £30,000.
"It's been an absolute nightmare for us. Every penny of our life savings has gone into this," Mrs Mildenhall said.
Throughout their ordeal, the Mildenhalls say they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from the local community.
"The very first day we came back people came in with cards for us. They were coming in and giving us hugs. That has made it easier. People have been really supportive," Mrs Mildenhall said.
"And the staff have been fantastic," she added.
"Kate and Heather kept the post office going. When it came to light that Mr Kenning had been taking money from the account, they went from working part-time to working five and a half days a week to keep it open.
"We just couldn't have done it without them."
The Mildenhalls are now determined to get the shop and post office running as it used to but in the long term they are looking at selling the business if they can find a buyer.
"We are going to try to sell the business again but we have got no accounts – they didn't keep any at all," Mrs Mildenhall said.