Retailers in Donington are still finding their feet five months after the village’s food store was virtually destroyed by ram-raiders.
The effects of an attempt to rip a cash machine from the wall outside the Co-operative store in Market Place, Donington, last September, has unexpectedly hit shops in the village because of a fall in shoppers.
But Debbie Hood, of Corner House Flowers in Market Place, is leading the fightback by turning her shop into something that is far more than just a florist.
Debbie said: “The Co-op ATM raid has had a major effect on the village and we’ve been working quite closely with (Donington parish and South Holland district councillor) Jane King to try and get things going again.
“The concern is over when the Co-op store will come back and the time it’s taking for it to return to the village.
“Gradually, we’re hearing from other shops that they are struggling in the same way.
“For example, we were quieter at Christmas when it’s normally one of our busiest times of the year.”
However, Debbie’s concern for the fall in shoppers around Donington is outweighed by the fast-approaching fifth anniversary of Corner House Flowers which falls on St George’s Day, April 23.
What started out as a “lifestyle change” after Debbie gave birth to her son has become an “all kinds of everything” village shop, just like the title of Ireland’s winning entry for the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest.
Debbie said: “I worked in insurance for 23 years but when I had my son, I decided on a lifestyle change and worked from my home in Quadring.
We don’t want to be just a florist shop and we’d like to diversify into something different so we can serve what is quite a big catchment areaDebbie Hood, of Corner House Flowers, Donington
“There hadn’t been a flower shop in Donington for a number of years so I joined up with a flower wholesaler who lived in the village and worked from home for ten to 15 years.
“As we were both local and in the flower trade, we decided to open a shop together.
“But when the wholesaler left Donington, I just carried on with it because I thought there was an opening in the market.”
A year later, Debbie’s shop found its way into the Good Florist Guide, a web-based directory of the finest florists in the UK.
Debbie said: “We have a lot of loyal customers for whom we try and offer a reasonable service, at good value and with longer lasting flowers.
“We also sell greetings cards, helium ballons, gift hampers and chocolate bouquets which can be delivered to our customers, instead of flowers.”
The shop is open from 10am until 4pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a 2pm closing time on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Debbie is assisted at the shop by volunteers Maureen Pritchard and Eileen Pearce who also runs Browntoft House Bed and Breakfast in Donington.
Maureen, who lives in Donington, said: “I wanted to do something to help in the community and Debbie took me on for a few days a week.
“If someone says they want something, Debbie will do her utmost to get it, even if it’s not flowers.
“Any flowers we do sell, we can gift wrap them free of charge as we’d sooner go the extra mile for someone and offer them that extra bit of service.”
No matter how soon a Co-operative store returns to Donington, Debbie has big plans of her own for Corner House Flowers.
Expansion of the shop to stock babywear, jewellery, handbags and scarves, along with the introduction of ice cream sales, are just two of the ideas in the pipeline.
Debbie said: “We don’t want to be just a florist shop and we’d like to diversify into something different.
“We’re looking to buy the building and expand out to the back so we can serve what is quite a big catchment area, including Bicker, Swineshead, Spalding and Boston.”
Debbie has an ally in her concerns about the impact on Donington of last September’s raid at the Co-operative Store.
Annica Clark, of Clark Family Eyecare in Donington and the subject of last week’s Support Our Shops feature, said: “We have been affected by the loss of the Co-op store.
“Due to the lack of visitors to Market Place in the village, we’ve noticed that there isn’t as many people walking around and, therefore, they must be shopping elsewhere.”
Debbie said: “We do rely on the fact that customers like to support their local shops, where they can, and there’s always been quite a variation of shops in Donington.”
Next week’s featured business will be Four Boys Village Stores in Whaplode Drove.