Heather Tingle’s business in Low Bradfield is more than just a village shop, post office and cafe, she said.
“It’s totally the hub of the community – it’s absolutely vital, not only for the village itself but for local villages too.”
And her beliefs have been echoed by voters in the annual Countryside Alliance Awards – nicknamed the Rural Oscars – who have secured Heather’s shop, Flask End, a place in the competition’s regional finals.
The place is shortlisted alongside other Northern contenders in Cumbria, County Durham and North Yorkshire for the title of best village shop or post office.
It is Flask End’s second success in the awards – four years ago the business won the regional title, meaning Heather got the chance to attend a reception at the House of Lords.
“It’s nice to get recognition, we’re really excited,” she said.
Heather, aged 39, opened the shop in 2012, switching from her career as a self-employed sales manager.
Flask End, named after nearby Dam Flask reservoir, was nominated by customers – and no encouragement was required, Heather said. “We got some forms through the post, put them on the counter and the next day they’d all gone. We had to put more out because everyone kept asking for them.”
Many changes have been made at the shop during her tenure, she said.
“It’s pretty much unrecognisable. The post office is now open seven days a week and there’s a much more open-plan feel to it. We’ve set up a neighbourhood watch which has done really well.”
Bicycle racks are available, the cafe menu has been extended – and the staff can save lives if called upon. Earlier this year shop worker Tessa Hull gave CPR to ice cream man Phil Harper, who had collapsed in the village from a heart attack at the wheel of his van.
“Now we have access to a defibrillator,” said Heather.
Flask End acts as a tourist information service, sells tickets for local events, and offers a book exchange scheme.
“It’s nice because there’s always someone here to talk to.”
The shop usually only shuts on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – but this week the doors were closed on Boxing Day and on Tuesday, because of family commitments.
“It’s really been giving me nightmares,” admitted Heather. “But I’ve got a six-year-old daughter.”
Flask End will be visited by judges before regional winners are revealed in February.