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Pushing the envelope
Travelled entrepreneur Eleanor Conner shares the secrets of her award-nominated Post Office, Envelope & Bacon
It was a lifelong dream come true when Eleanor was handed the keys to her Post Office in the Edinburgh suburb of Barnton, just over four years ago.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted my own shop,” she explained. “I didn’t plan it. I’d been running an online business for eight years, selling jewellery and clothes. But I was looking for a new challenge, when I saw the Post Office was for sale I thought, wow I’ve got to have that.”
It was a leap but Eleanor’s retail experience smoothed over any bumps in the road. “As well as my online business, I used to live in Thailand and import goods from there so I've always trusted my own instincts in finding products that are a little different.”
Owning her own bricks and mortar has allowed Eleanor to stamp her distinctive personality on her cosy shop. “It’s like a wee home and a hidden gem – when you walk in, you know it’s independent because it’s my character in the decor. There’s lots of little quirks and things I’ve added. We try to have a little bit of everything.”
Canny design has proved key to making the most of the small space. “Our bakery and takeaway business are based at the front of the shop with the Post Office at the rear. These two main elements of our business marry together with our gifts, cards and wrapping paper, and dry cleaning. You can order a coffee and wait in line for your post and take it away when you leave, or sit down for a minute, have a cup of tea and bacon roll, buy your card and write it there and post it.”
But a personal touch underpins everything about the shop and what it sells. “I've taken a food-styling course to promote our products more effectively on social media. We also promote the use of reusable cups and offer a discount to customers who bring their own bamboo cups. These changes make the shop a more pleasant and efficient place for customers while keeping the independent theme running.”
There’s a genuine warmth that customers have come to appreciate, Eleanor said. “We have an excellent customer base and my team and I love to help them as much as we can. It really is a community. We have a lot of elderly people as customers and give them that extra time to make sure they are being well looked after. Most of our customers have become our friends. We recently got broken into and the support we received to get back on our feet was just lovely.”
Eleanor’s efforts have been well rewarded. Her shop was Highly Commended in the Retail Awards for Best Independent Post Office in 2018 – the only shop in Scotland to be nominated and it’s been shortlisted again this year.
Post Office has proved crucial to the shop’s success. “It’s a brilliant, well-trusted brand and it’s lovely to be associated with such a good franchise. We’re a tight ship and we’re looking forward to what the future brings.”
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