Which Norfolk post office and stores is the best in the country this month?
- Credit: Archant
It beat off competition from 11,500 other village stores and post offices across the country, and now the owners are looking forward to a bumper summer season.
West Runton Village Store and Post Office, near Sheringham in north Norfolk, won the Retail Shop and Post Office of the Month in March.
It underwent a £300,000 refurbishment last year, and the new shop is almost double the size of the business husband and wife owners, Andrea and Stuart Loakes moved into two-and-a-half years ago.
Mrs Loakes said: 'It was a total surprise, but a lovely surprise winning. It's brilliant that we have been recognised. We do work very hard in our community. We are a community post office. Locals have taken it on board and we are looking forward to the summer.'
A former primary school teacher, she and Stuart, who has a farming background, both had retail experience and had visited the shop several times before taking it on, while holidaying in the area.
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Mrs Loakes added: 'We could see the enormous potential it had. It needed a lot of investment, but we had a feeling it would pay off.
'Most businesses can be turned around with energy, investment and a bit of positivity.'
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The new store has four new chiller cabinets, a freezer and LED lighting.
It has also acquired a new Lavazza coffee machine, new air conditioning and CCTV cameras, and it stocks a range of food from local producers, including Cromer crabs.
Other simple improvements include the installation of an awning, which allows the use of space at the front of the shop when it's raining.
Mrs Loakes said their aim had been to make sure the shop was part of the post office and vice versa.
She added: 'We wanted as many dual purchases as possible. With the Post Office's help we got rid of the old fortress and replaced it with an open plan combi counter, which has made everything more welcoming and sends out the message, the post office is the shop and the shop is the post office, which we wanted to communicate.'