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End of an era: Sisters Sue and Bernice retire after a total of 101 years in the fruit and veg business

Bernice and Sue
(l to r) Sue and Bernice . The sister worked together for over 100 years in the fruit and veg business. They retired after 15 years at Cwmbran Fresh Produce in Llanyrafon (Photo: Bernice Nurden

Two sisters who worked at the fruit and veg shop in Llanyrafon for the last 15 years have retired. Bernice Nurden, 65, and Sue James, 67, started in the business at the age of 16 on a stall in Newport Market.

During their long career in Newport they worked for a couple of stallholders at sites around the market and in John Frost Square. In 2006 they both joined Cwmbran Fresh Produce in Llanyrafon.

Bernice, 65, shared some of her memories of the Cwmbran shop. She said they were once stranded in Cwmbran because of heavy snow- they both live in Newport. They managed to get to Malpas Shops where ‘John from the chippy next door’ spotted them and gave them a lift further down the road where they got on a bus into the city centre. Bernice had to walk the final part of her journey home to Pill as there were no buses.

It was a five-hour adventure.

Bernice said: “But we still turned up for work the next day. Our customers then said we could have stayed with any of them, but we didn’t really know them.

“We’ve always worked together since we left school. Sue and I have always got on well together. We’ve always shared a bedroom and clothes when we were thinner and went out drinking together. We are just best friends and sisters although we have a big family of five girls and two boys.

“We were always laughing about something one of us said with our warped sense of humour. I think because we are so close we would finish off each other’s sentences which the customers found hilarious. Also if we were on the phone no-one knew which one was talking. We would swap over during a conversation with our elder sister and she didn’t know.”

Bernice and Sue
(l to r) Bernice and Sue

Regulars in the shop

“As for regulars, too many to mention, but they all had their little quirks which we learned over the time.  Everyone had a different story and would share them with us, the good and the not so nice like illnesses.

“If one of us was off, the customers always asked where the other one was or ask ‘haven’t we gone home’ because we were in the same place the day before. They became our friends, not customers. We grew together, laughed and cried together but we wouldn’t change them for the world.

“It’s interesting work and you do get to meet some wonderful people. We have one family that has been coming to us for 16 years. They followed us from the market to John Frost Square to Llanyrafon.”

“I remember my parents telling us growing up in Pill, the people were a family, and that’s how the people of Llanyrafon became to us. In fact the first week we started there two ladies we grew up with came into the shop, one lived by the Commodore Hotel.’

‘The customers were brilliant’

“We retired Christmas Eve. I didn’t think I would be so emotional. I think I cried most of the day.  The customers were brilliant, gifts galore, which we appreciated. We had flowers from Paninis (sandwich bar), chocolates from the dentist and cards from everyone.

“We keep in touch on Facebook with some of the folks.”

So what have you been up to since you retired?

“I did nothing in the first week, then seeing family we hadn’t seen for ages. Sue and I actually met up in Friars Walk for coffee for the first time in fifteen years because we were always in work. Now we don’t stay in.

“I don’t really know how we had time to work. They are great memories of the shop and we have made loads of good friends, and we hope to see them as soon as it gets warmer.”

Bernice said they loved their work colleagues but there is one thing they won’t miss. She joked: “We don’t miss the early mornings or the frosty ones, the bosses can have that now. It was a pleasure working with Andrew Wheeler and the boys there. We miss their weird humour.”








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End of an era: Sisters Sue and Bernice retire after a total of 101 years in the fruit and veg business