Ashdene Service Station in East Sussex has become the first forecourt in the UK to win the My Shop is Your Shop Gold Award for Community Retailing.
The award, which recognises the contribution that great local stores make to their communities, was presented by Greg Barker, MP for Bexhill and Battle.
He said: “With the closure of the local post office, Ashdene Service Station has become a lifeline for the local community and the way in which the staff have entrenched themselves in the community has been a model for small retailers.”
Carol Smith, who has run the store for 30 years, has a long track record of contributing to the local community. When the Post Office and shop closed in nearby Hurst Green, she set up minibus runs to her service station. She has also organised study tours for the local WI, around her service station and her wholesalers.
The store sells supports Hawkhurst Cottage Hospital in Kent, the local air ambulance and Help for Heroes, and donates leftover Easter eggs to the Demelza House, a local children’s hospice.
Another priority for Carol is sourcing as much as possible from local suppliers, including eggs from a local farm, pies and sausages from the local butchers and bread from the local bakery. At Christmas, she orders fresh geese and turkeys from a local farm. Part of the profits of this local produce go the cottage hospital and the air ambulance.
Most of all, Carol provides great service to customers. She says: “The guys in the shop are settled team. They know all the local customers. As we are a service station on a busy road, we have a transient trade. But there are many regulars and I know they appreciate the service we offer.”
John Barnes, County Councillor for Rother North West, also attended the presentation. “Carol’s great and her shop’s great,” he said. “She and her family provide an enormous service to the area. Carol’s father is involved in setting up a new community shop and café in the village – even though it will provide competition to Carol’s store!”