After a six-month journey of planning and building, we’re finally done and are ready to open our refitted and enlarged modern c-store with a café and lounge bar. For months it seemed like we were miles away and then it all came together in the past six weeks or so. I suppose the last pieces of a jigsaw are always the easiest ones to fit in!

I’ve enjoyed project managing the whole thing and we’ve only lost eight hours trading during the entire six months, which I’m very proud of. Now it seems like a dream that I’ve suddenly woken up from and I’m wondering why was it so stressful? Why was I so tired all the time?

We are now merchandising the store and recruiting staff for the food service side, ready for a soft launch which will happen around the time that you read this. Our shop staff have been brilliant throughout the transition and it’s been great to see the staff and customers remain so excited and positive despite all the damp, draughts and dust of the building works.

We are being very careful not to over-promise and under-deliver on the catering side, so we are going to start cautiously with a basic offer such as a simple breakfast and light lunch. It’s basically going to be an enhanced version of what we offer from the shop already, but with the option of sitting down to eat.
It’s going to be a big learning curve for us to find what our customers want and how best to deliver it, but we are confident that we have modernised our business in line with the current market trends, and more importantly that we are doing the right thing for the local area by providing a café and a village bar.

We’ve had great support from Booker, and some big branded suppliers such as Coca-Cola and Red Bull have been interested in what we are doing as well: for example, we had a meeting with both off-trade and on-trade people from Carlsberg to work out how the two sides of the business we have here can work together.

It’s been an epic journey and I still feel a little stunned that it’s all here in front of me. Of course, it all needs to translate into money in the till, but as they say, if you build it, they will come!