Grand gesture as West Norfolk village says thanks to retiring shop bosses
A West Norfolk community has united in thanks to the couple who have run their village shop for nearly a quarter of a century - without a holiday.
When Cathy and Tim Roberts took over Ringstead's General Store in February 1997, John Major was Prime Minister and LL Cool J was top of the charts.
And, as they now prepare to hand over the reins to new owners, community leaders and residents turned out for a surprise, socially distanced, retirement presentation to them on Wednesday morning.
But the couple themselves were as keen to thank the village for shopping with them.
Cathy said: "We wouldn't be here without their support over the years. They're not just our customers. They're our friends now."
The presentation took place 24 years to the day since Tim and Cathy took over the shop.
In that time, it has diversified to offer a wide array of Norfolk-produced food and drink, cards, gifts and even a delve into the world of antiques with its Hidden Treasures.
More than £1,000 was raised for retiring gifts for the couple in a campaign led by the village's parish council and church council.
Residents were asked to take their donations to the village's St Andrew's Church.
And parish council vice-chairman Bill Jacob said the couple had become "part of the landscape and the history" of the village.
He told them: "Lots and lots of village shops have disappeared in 25 years and you have done a marvellous job in ensuring that ours has survived, expanded and diversified.
"The number of people here indicates how well you have been able to serve a very diverse community."
Wednesday had been due to be the last day of trading for Tim, 65, and Cathy, 63, before they begin their retirement in Wales, where most of their family lives.
However, with a last minute hitch for the prospective new owners this week, the couple are set to remain behind the counter for a little while yet.
But Cathy explained they had advertised the shop for sale privately in order to ensure that any potential buyer was committed to continuing the business she and Tim have developed over the years.
And she says it'll be the laughter and the village she'll miss when they finally hand over the keys.
"We just laugh all the time. It's a fun place to work and it's nice to know 90 per cent of the people by their first name.
"It's the community that I'll miss. We didn't know anybody when we first came here and we built that up.
"We've worked hard for a long time and we want to be young enough to enjoy retirement but if we had been here for another couple of years that would have been fine."