Lydford Farm Shop
Marcia Vanstone, owner of Lydford Farm Shop, has been committed to serving the needs of the local community during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have always been a shop where we chat and get to know our customers. We like to give people that time,” she says. “During lockdown, having those five minute chats became even more important.
“Some of our customers have faced big personal challenges, so we have picked up the phone to those who we know are isolated or struggling and we sent flowers to one of our customers who we knew was having a difficult time.
“Being a village shop in the community means we all look out for each other.”
Marcia took on the small shop, which is on the Western fringe of Dartmoor in Devon, from its previous owners in January 2018.
Committed to supporting local farmers and food producers, it stocks a wide range of vegetables, meat and dairy products, from the surrounding area. It also sells homemade pasties, sausage rolls and pies, using beef from Marcia and her husband’s family farm.
When the lockdown started, Marcia focused on staying open. “We had a significant drop in footfall,” she explains, “but those who were coming were doing bigger shops. Many of them wanted to do their weekly shop with us, rather than going to the supermarket.
“Everyone was frightened because of the uncertainty. I made that commitment to keep going while making sure we went above and beyond in terms of keeping people safe.”
In the early days, that meant Marcia starting work at three or four in the morning, baking products on site, to get ready for a busy day of deliveries and running the shop. While opening hours are now returning to normal, Marcia initially had to make changes including closing on Sundays, for the first time, to allow her small team to keep up with production and deliveries.
Marcia had recently invested in a van for her second business, which caters for events, including weddings and Tavistock’s weekly cattle market. With the events business temporarily on hold, she used the van to deliver food to customers who were unable to visit the shop. Offering this new service helped her to meet the needs of existing customers, while also attracting new people who were looking for a food delivery service.
Marcia took the decision to exceed the Government guidance to protect her customers and team of six part-time staff. “I was committed to staying open but I wanted to know I had done the absolute maximum to keep people safe”, she says.
“We’re a small shop so at the beginning we only allowed one customer in at a time. We supplied gloves and hand sanitiser and moved to card payments to avoid anyone having to handle cash. We also installed a screen around the till area.
“We’ve now changed the layout so we have a one-way system and can accommodate up to four customers in the shop at any one time. There is still a demand for deliveries and we’ll keep them going as long as people need them.”
Cornish Mutual insures Lydford Farm Shop, as well as the family farm, home and vehicles. “We use them for everything,” says Marcia, “and they have always been really good to deal with. A few months ago, we had to make a claim following a break in which was a really upsetting experience for us. They were very sympathetic and supportive at a difficult time.”
Cornish Mutual local insurance advisor, Paula Mayes, says: “When the lockdown started, I spoke to Marcia to find out how she was adapting, understand how she was operating and to check that she was properly covered. We had to make some changes to her policy because the shop was starting deliveries and to reflect new arrangements with some of their suppliers.
“Marcia’s commitment to the local community has been amazing and I have also been struck by how hard she has worked to ensure local farmers and producers continue to have an outlet through her shop. She’s gone above and beyond to make it all work and to keep her customers, staff and suppliers safe.”
All the way through, we have been focusing on supporting our loyal customers,” Marcia says. “They have been absolutely lovely and some have been amazed that we’ve managed to keep opening. We have also got a number of new customers who wanted somewhere local that could deliver or a shop where they could feel safe.
“Overall we feel really lucky to have stayed open. The team here have been fantastic. They have kept going, kept smiling and kept people safe.”