Awards shortlist for gem of a village shop run by diamond experts
PUBLISHED: 10:44 07 February 2019
A couple who swapped working in the diamond industry in Botswana for running a village shop in South Norfolk have been nominated in prestigious rural business awards.
Robbie and Kelly Starling moved from Hertfordshire to take over the village store and post office in Garboldisham in 2014 and have expanded its services from selling locally made produce to services as diverse as tennis court hire, dry cleaning and a book swap club.
Now the shop’s place at the heart of the village has been recognised in the village shop and post office category on the regional shortlist of the Countryside Alliance Awards, an annual celebration of British food, farming and small rural businesses.
Robbie Starling, 52, who previously worked as a diamond valuer, and his wife Kelly, 46, who sold diamonds, had been about to move to Africa when they decided to swap trading in precious stones for selling bottles of milk and stamps to villagers.
“Kelly said let’s escape the rat race and we started looking for a small business first in the Cotswolds, then North Norfolk before we eventually settled on Garboldisham before the village seemed to have everything we were looking for,” said Mr Starling.
“It was a huge difference. I had never dealt with the public in my previous job, while Kelly was used to selling diamonds but had never sold anyone a newspaper.”
Taking over from a previous owner who had starting stocking local produce the couple now sell Norfolk and Suffolk jam, bread, meat, wine, fruit and veg.
Many items are made by people in the community minded village, including Garboldisham honey made just a few doors down and flour is milled at the working flour mill in the village.
They have also developed the store as a community hub with services including providing a repeat prescription service, banking at the Post Office, twice weekly dry-cleaning, tennis court hire, a book swap library and even drama society ticket sales.
“We have older customers who value the services and you have to keep reinventing yourself to make sure the shop is relevant to people’s needs,” explains Mr Starling, who said the award short-listing came out of the blue.
“An envelope came and it was a case of wow. Even if we don’t go any further it is just wonderful that people are recognising what we are doing here.”
Other Norfolk businesses shortlisted include Norton Dairy at Frettenham for local food/drink; butchers JW Sargeant in King’s Lynn; The White Hart in Attleborough is vying for the top pub title; while Brambells Glamping, near Beccles, is nominated in the rural enterprise category.
ONE SHOP, 10 SERVICES
Bakers with artisan breads and cakes from Wendy’s House
Butchers with meat from Rolfes of Walsham
Off licence selling local beers and even champagne produced at Thelnetham Vineyard
Card and gift shop
Theatre ticket sellers
Tennis court hire
Book swap club