THE Langholm Co-op is celebrating 20 years in business this week.
This year, like no other, the Glenesk Road store has shown its worth to the communities in Eskdale.
When the lockdown was announced in March, Gary Collins, manager, and his staff swung into action to help people self-isolating and others.
With offers of help from many volunteers, they put together customer orders which were then distributed around the town and the valley.
On Monday this week, as a thank you for shopping at the store, treats were left around the tills for customers to help themselves.
A competition to win a hamper was free to enter by anyone shopping in the store that day, no matter how much they spent.
When the store opened in November 2000, it was owned by the Lothian & Borders Co-op but it was later sold to the The Co-operative Group.
It stands on a former mill site and when plans were put forward to build a Co-op, there was some opposition in the town from people who thought it would damage High Street traders.
Gary was at school when it opened but he says he remembers representatives coming in to look for potential employees.
He has been with the Co-op for 14 years and has also worked at the Lockerbie and Gretna stores.
Reflecting on the three-month lockdown and their decision to do home deliveries, he said: “We didn’t have a budget for it; it was just something we thought we would do.
“We thought we could do it ourselves but the volunteers got in touch with us and got involved.
“We arranged a plan between us and it worked really well. The volunteers did the deliveries. We couldn’t have done it without them.
“Afterwards, we had mainly positive feedback. People told us how vital it was for them, especially the elderly and those who lived alone and whose families lived far away.
“It made it all worth it when they and their families said how important it had been for them.”
Earlier this year the store was scheduled to have a refit but, mainly because of the coronavirus, it was put off until next year.
Gary is looking forward to the store being updated and offering an even better service to existing and new customers.
He said: “It will be a boost for the town that a business is being invested in.
“The store will be completely updated and the outside will be cleaned and painted and new signs put up to attract more passing trade.
“There will be a complete overhaul inside: new fridges, a new lay out and wider aisles. We’ll also get a post office counter. Hot food will return and we’ll get a coffee machine.
“The store will stay open during the work, although some parts may be closed on certain days.”
The Langholm store has raised a lot of money for the town’s organisations through its community fund.
This year’s three recipients – Langholm Regeneration Group, Langholm Pipe Band and Langholm Youth Rugby shared £7,559, thanks to Co-op members.
The offer has now changed and instead of one penny in every pound going to good causes, it has gone up to two pence.