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Cornish community show the true spirit of Christmas

A Cornish retailer and his community have pulled out all the stops to get the village store trading in time for Christmas after catastrophe struck just a week before the big day.

Gary Batten’s Phoenix Stores in Nanpean, near St Austell, was devastated on Wednesday last week when the roof collapsed, leaving him with no choice but to close the store.

Nobody was hurt in the incident however a large section of the suspended ceiling collapsed in the centre of the store – which opened just six months ago - with the remainder of the ceiling deemed unsafe.

Gary said: “The store was open and trading when the ceiling fell in – we were very lucky that nobody was in the aisle as it could have been far worse.”

Using social media to spread the news, Gary shared photographs of the scene, explained the situation and apologised to his shoppers for the inconvenience.

He feared the worse for the repairs, believing he would be closed until the new year, however within hours work commenced after a local builder, who shops in the store, stepped in and offered to do the job.

And with the building made safe, Gary made an appeal for help on the store’s Facebook page, asking shoppers if they could spare some time to help get the shop back in order.

The post read: “Would anyone like to volunteer to help clean our local community shop today at 6pm – Sunday 22nd December. Even 10 minutes would clean one shelf, let’s get the shop back to looking brand new again. Free tea and coffee and may be a biscuit!”

Gary was flooded with well-wishers volunteering their services and the shop was able to partially open on Sunday with customers from around the village still working their way through the store to get it cleaned and back to full service.

Gary said: “Prior to us arriving in the village, the community only had a very small shop on the side of a garage in which to get their groceries, so they have really enjoyed us being here. We are a real community hub with lots of events run from the store and the response we have had from our shoppers in helping us get back trading has been very heart-warming.

“The builders finished their work and now we have people walking in the door with their rubber gloves on, asking how they can help. It really is a fantastic community effort and we just want to be back and serving the village properly again as soon as possible.”