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Former owners return to Looe post office

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 20, 2013

TEAM EFFORT: From left, Bob Mildenhall with dog Maisie, Andrea Mildenhall with dog Wilf, Kate Ward and Heather Margetts in the post office, East Looe.

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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.

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.

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  • beachcomber1  |  February 22 2013, 11:28AM

    i find it incredible that a cornish guardian journalist sat in the cortroom with mr and mrs kenning and heard the case facts at length then printed an article then your reporter gayle mcdonald then went and interviewed mr and mrs mildenhall and printed a pack of lies on the front page a week later!! 1, the money was not used to prop up the jewellers, it was used to keep the post office open by paying the post office rent until mr kenning could sell a property and pay for it out of his own money! 2, mr kenning admitted this to the post office in the first instance! 3, full accounts were of course kept! mr and mrs mildenhall do not have these because they did not buy the business back. the accounts are with mr kennings accountant. 4,mr kenning struggled for over 2 years to make ends meet but was unable to as mr and mrs mildenhall gave false accounts when the business was sold to them! the shortfall has crippled them. 5, the court was in full sympathy with mr kenning and suggested he should take legal action against mr and mrs mildenhall and the solicitors that represented him at the time of the sale! 6, mr and mrs kenning have been to hell and back and have lost over £200, 000 because of them. there health has suffered enormously and now you have made it a million times worse for them. 7, mr kenning did everything in his power to save heather and kates jobs to the point of going without himself! 8, mr kenning did not thieve thousands as you allowed mr mildenhall to point out, he mearly made a bad error of judgement under enormous pressure. the mess they found themselves in was because of mr and mrs mildenhall!! and now they stand to lose everything theyve worked hard to hang on to. there remaining jewellery business there trying so hard to sustain is now threatened because you have taken all the trust away. these 2 people and the most trustworthy kind people i know. in no way did they used a single penny for there own gain....unlike mr an mrs mildenhall. i really think your reporter gayle mcdonald owes mr and mrs kenning a public apology for making there situation a million times worse! i thought the first rule of journalism is to report the truth, yet your newspaper has done the complete opposite just to sell papers. call your selves the cornish guardians? what a load of rubbish. you have shocked so many people here in looe who know the truth and know these people. you should be utterly ashamed of yourselves!

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