Damage caused by burglars who smashed their way into a forecourt shop with a sledgehammer has not deflected the team at a Suffolk service station from supporting their local community during the lockdown.
Potters of Framlingham, a rural Jet garage, had already seen fuel volumes fall by 75%, but had buoyed shop sales with a total rejig of its offer, when the attack happened.
Lorna McCurrach, the manager, said the raiders broke a full-length window and stole cigarettes and tobacco. She described them as “not the brightest” as they looked directly at the CCTV camera and then cut themselves leaving blood, and therefore DNA evidence, behind. Suspects have since been charged.
Lorna said: “They caused a lot of damage. It’s not just the window. We have to move the emergency pump button because it is against the window, and part of the counter will have to be removed to get the new pane of glass in, so the site will have to close while the window is replaced.
“But the community have been very supportive. People have been coming into the shop and checking the staff are okay, and checking on social media and asking if they can help in any way.”
Meanwhile the business has been keeping up its work for the community. At the start of the lockdown, the fall in revenue meant it had to cut its hours from 6am-8pm to 8am-4pm, but after requests from key workers – customers include carers, nurses, doctors and police officers – they increased them to 7am-7pm. Lorna explained: “They work odd shifts and they asked us to open longer and that’s what we are here for.”
The shop has also undergone a radical change introducing a range of groceries for the first time. “Straight after the lockdown the shop was very quiet, but the Co-op had queues down the street, so we decided we could help the community,” said Lorna.
The new range included bread, eggs, bacon, flour from a local mill, and nappies and formula. “We’ve completely changed everything in the shop, so now our sales are up to what they normally are when we are open full time.” Staff have been delivering to regular customers who have been self isolating and Lorna has even been taking requests over Facebook and trying to source the products in the local Booker cash and carry.
The shop has also had to adapt to the new distancing regulations, with no more than two people allowed in at a time and signs on the floor. A new screen, built by owner Allan Potter, has also been erected at the till. PPE has been brought in for staff, including masks which were made for the staff by customers. Some staff have had to be furloughed, and general manager Keith Bartholomew has had to self isolate, but Lorna said he continued to provide support at any time by phone.
Lorna also praised her fuel supplier, saying: “Phillips 66 have been fantastic. My area manager calls me at least once a week to find out whether we need a normal delivery or smaller a delivery and they are happy to put on smaller trucks. Normally there would be charges involved if you needed to take so much under a full load, but they’ve waived all the charges.
“You normally need to book a tanker four days in advance to guarantee a slot, but at the moment we can’t project what our sales are going to be so we’ve been able to order tanker at a days notice, so they are being really supportive.”