A STORE at the centre of the Preston Candover community has celebrated its first birthday in unusual times.

Candover Valley store, located next to the village hall, celebrated its first birthday last month, and has taken the opportunity to thank all of its customers.

Opened by Lord Sainsbury last June, the store provides local people and visitors with groceries, fresh and chilled foods, gift items, wines and spirits.

On top of this, during 'normal times', the store also has a coffee area, a social hub and post office services.

And it is since lockdown was initiated in March that the store has become even more valuable to people of the village, with residents being able to avoid the panic buying and queues of major supermarkets in Alton, Alresford or Basingstoke and get their necessities from the store.

Manager Garry Green said: "Demand is so high that it is challenging to source supplies and to get items back on the shelves quickly enough.

"As fast as we put stock out, customers buy it, which is why we’re here of course.

"There’s a great community spirit and we have had a lot of lovely compliments. It's proof that there has never been a better time for a local community store.”

In the store’s first year of trading, new initiatives such as the in-store bakery oven and panini toasters have successfully been introduced, along with the sale of newspapers and some magazines, and a small range of refillable, environmentally-friendly cleaning products.

And their loyal customer base has stuck by them through the tough times. Regular Judy Bradshaw, who also owns Moonroast coffee, based in the valley, said: "We would have really struggled as a community without our fabulous shop.

"It has been a life-saver for many of us, even managing to stock flour when it was impossible to find any elsewhere.

"Our own business has suddenly become much more reliant on posting coffee to customers and we are thankful to have the convenience of the post office, just up the road from the roastery.”