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Drumbeg Stores - Best Village Shop - Post Office

13th December 2006

Photograph of Drumbeg Stores - Best Village Shop - Post Office

SCOTLAND'S BEST RURAL RETAILERS UNVEILED
The Scottish winners of the Countryside Alliance Best Rural Retailer competition 2006 have been unveiled.

The winners are:
Best Local Food Retailer - Roddy MacLennan, Lochcarron, Wester Ross
Daily Telegraph Best Traditional retailer - Watt the Butcher, Montrose, Angus
Best village shop/Post Office - Drumbeg Village Stores, Drumbeg, Sutherland
Best diversification - Fine Iron Design, Forteviot, Perthshire

The four Scottish winners will now go forward to the UK final organised by the Countryside Alliance, and the four overall UK winners will be unveiled at the House of Lords in February 2007.

The annual competition, organised by the Countryside Alliance, attracted nominations from every corner of Scotland, highlighting the best of Scottish rural enterprise. Businesses were judged on key criteria including: going the extra mile for their community; being ambassadors for local produce; keeping countryside traditions alive and helping to revive their local community.

Nicola Chalmers-Watson of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: "We were overwhelmed by the number and quality of the nominations received from the general public. There are so many excellent small and medium businesses across Scotland who strive, often against the odds, to sustain their local community, to promote local produce and keep rural Scotland alive. There was tough competition in each category, but the Scottish Countryside Alliance believes these 4 finalists represent the best of Scottish rural retailers."

More About The Scottish Winners

Best Local Food Retailer
R and C MacLennan and Son, Locharron
Owner Roddy tots up 300 miles per week, delivering fresh produce to the 'local' community. The meat is from Dingwall market with dairy products from Stromferry dairies, smoked salmon from Loch Torridon and venison from local estates. Shop manager Allan McFadzean is very knowledgeable and passionate about local Scottish products. With their new vacumm packing machine, approx 25 packs of highland produce are being sent south per week Maclennan's business is the hub of the community and Roddy trusts everyone for payment - in 20 years he has never had to ask for a bank card or not been paid. The business was started by his grandfather, and Roddy is determined to keep the business going until 2008 when it will be 100 years old. Roddy is chairman of the Lochcarron Shinty club and president of the local golf club.

What the judges said: This business is in a most remote part of Scotland, and acts as the centre for the community. Roddy Maclennan the owner, travels in his van for four days each week delivering fresh, locally-sourced produce to many communities. Roddy totally encompasses what the Best Rural Retailer competition is all about.


Daily Telegraph Best Traditional Retailer
Watt the Butcher, Montrose
Neil Watt is the master butcher, who started the business when he 'retired' back to Montrose from London in 1982, having been the head meat buyer and sous chef at the Savoy Hotel. His father was a butcher in Montrose, and Neil now deals with the next generation of all his father's customers and suppliers. He is a good old-fashioned butcher with emphasis on quality. All the meat is hung for at least 21days and the shop specialises in a range of home made sausages, local game in season, free range and organic, local meat. The small and friendly shop is always beautifully laid out and at busy times the queue stretches around the block. Last Christmas Neil laid on mince pies and mulled wine for all those waiting in line.

All product is sourced locally. Neil is the sole stockist for Glenbervie Aberdeen Angus and he caters for most of the hotels in the area. He is happy to oblige almost anything - no one has ever come in and asked for something that can't be done. Although Sunday is paperwork day the locals know that if they don't have enough for Sunday lunch they can pop round the back of the shop and Neil will give them something. He produces 18 different types of pie, 10 kinds of sausages (rotated on a weekly basis), potted meats, marinated cuts, noisettes... the list is endless. Watt's sponsor the local rugby club, and make donations to many local charitable causes. His underlying belief is that is he buys locally, the customers (many farmers) will know that and buy from him. The butcher's shop is half shop and half social club - many people, especially elderly, pop in each day for a chat. Watt's provide a home-delivery service, and also send produce across the whole of the UK to supply loyal customers

What the judges said: This is a wonderful example of traditional retailing in modern times. Neil's enthusiasm for his trade shows in the beautifully laid out shop, and his commitment to his customers is highly evident. The butcher is not only supporting many local farms by using them to supply his excellent produce, but is supporting the community by being a social club for many regulars.


Best Village Shop/ Post Office
Drumbeg Village Stores, Sutherland
Brendan and Anne Butler mover to Drumbeg to run the small store in 2005 with their two daughters. Previously both teachers, they have embraced the change in lifestyle and have thrown themselves into running the small local store and post office. Their basic philosophy is to provide an alternative to the supermarket with fewer food miles, Fair Trade products, organic, local produce and a greater variety of fine food. Local produce is stocked in the first instance where possible. The shop also offers broadband internet access and elderly locals without phones are allowed to use the shop phone to make local calls for free. They run a 'book' (maximum credit 300) which is much appreciated by the local community, especially by the crofters whose income is sporadic. Indeed, only a handful of villagers do not make use of this interest-free credit system and many regular visitors to the area also make use of it, settling their account at the end of their holiday. In addition to the delivery service advertised on their website, local elderly ladies (a number of whom live on their own without transport) know that if the weather is bad they can phone an order through and they will deliver their groceries without any extra charge by the end of the day. Visitors to the area staying in self-catering cottages increasingly make use of the website (drumbegstores.co.uk) to order their groceries in advance. If they can get hold of the keys to their cottage the couple will even stock the fridge. For residents who are not in Drumbeg all year round they forward their mail and keep their keys to pass on to tradesmen or friends of theirs who come up to stay.

What the judges said: Despite the most rural of locations and what must be difficult trading conditions, Anne and Brendan Butler have thoroughly embraced their role of running the local store. The store is jam-packed with fantastic local produce, some fine food and also staple goods at surprisingly low prices. Brendan and Anne are now at the heart of community life in Drumbeg and it seems that they will do anything they can to please their customers. A delightful shopping experience!

Best Diversification
Fine Iron Design
After 20 years of working as a successful farrier, Robert McFadzean set up Fine Iron Design in 2001, having encountered difficult trading condition following foot and mouth. Always creatively minded, he was able to use his traditional forging skills to make fantastic bespoke items of furniture. Robert makes every piece himself using metal, glass and marble. His pieces include smaller items like table lamps or toilet roll holders right through to fenders, sculptures and sets of dining table and chairs. Robert sources materials from as locally as possible. He buys iron and steel from Perth and Stirling and leather work is done by a local business. Robert markets his products through his website (fineirondesign.com), through attendance at game fairs, and word of mouth. He also sponsors the local riding club show and will still fit a horse-shoe if the locals require.

What the judges said: Robert McFadzean is a wonderful example of diversification. Using his practical skills and a very creative mind, he develops the most beautiful bespoke furniture pieces and sculpture. He helps to support other local business by using their services where required and has set up a fantastic business doing something he has real passion for, after a difficult period in his career.

 

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