They may have been in the business for just two years, but brothers Rami and Sunny Gill - who run Gill's Convenience Store in Little Heath, Coventry - are a winning combination. They have seen off stiff competition to win the neighbourhood category and £250 in our Growing with Warburtons competition.
Sunny bought the shop in March 2004, but the pair quickly went into partnership and set about planning a refurbishment of the 350sq ft store. "The shop was half the size it is now and quite rundown," explains Rami. "It's been there for 40 years and during that time has evolved from a grocery store into a convenience store.
"My brother ran the store initially but found it was a lot more work than he expected, so I started helping out and we went into partnership. We always had the plan to make it bigger so six months after Sunny bought it we got an architect involved."
The redevelopment began in January and was completed in April. Selling space has almost doubled to 800sq ft and a large store room has been built outside. The store now has a new shopfront, floors, suspended ceiling, shelving, counter and 10 metres of open-front chillers. Services include a payment terminal, an ATM and dry-cleaning, and work to create a parking area outside the store is now under way.
Another major change has been their membership of Premier. "We decided that rather than stay independent, we would go with a symbol," says Rami. "We went to the Convenience Retailing Show and spoke to all of the symbols there, but the one that gave us the most freedom was Premier."
Before taking over the shop, Rami and Sunny both worked in IT so running the store has been a steep learning curve. "We both worked for IBM but wanted to do something for ourselves," says Rami. "It's been a lot of hard work and hours, but the end is in sight.
"There is more to running a shop than we thought. There were a lot of regulations that we didn't know about at first, such as access for disabled people and fire alarms. But when we step back we realise how well we've done, and the customers love it. We've had such a lot of positive feedback and we get more of a basket shopper now."
When the parking area is complete, the pair intend to take more deliveries. "Business has really picked up so we're having to go to the cash and carry more often," explains Rami. "We want to get away from that and just have deliveries."
While Rami and Sunny are having great success with their new-look store, growing competition is giving them a run for their money. "When we bought the shop there wasn't a Tesco Extra nearby; now there's one only a mile away. However, our sales have actually gone up slightly since it opened," says Rami. "I think it's because it has brought more jobs to the area so people have more money in their pockets."
The brothers were also concerned when a Costcutter opened just around the corner 14 months ago. "When Costcutter opened we weren't part of a symbol so we thought we would be in trouble, but a lot of customers stayed with us out of loyalty. Costcutter's prices were quite high and so after the refit we made sure our prices haven't gone up - people always think they will rise after a redevelopment. There is a lot of competition around here so things are price sensitive."
Given their success so far, the Gill brothers don't intend to stop at one store. Says Rami: "This is our first venture, but we may buy another shop. We've had to learn the ropes from the bottom but have dived straight in."