BIDBOROUGH STORES has been named among the South-East’s finalists in the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards, known as the ‘Rural Oscars’.
The store is on the shortlist for the category of village shop or post office. The only other entry for Kent was Park Farm Butchers in Hawkhurst.
The awards are the Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through small, hard-working businesses. There were a record 7,500 nominations this year.
Reshma and Kiran Masrani (pictured) have run Bidborough Stores for 10 years and they won both the Ethical Business title and the overall prize at last year’s Love Where We Live awards.
Before they arrived in the village, they had helped to run Masra in Grove Hill, Tunbridge Wells.
Mr Masrani is renowned for his range of own-recipe curries, which he cooks fresh on Friday and Saturday and dishes up to fans from far and wide.
He also bakes his own croissants, baguettes and pies in the morning, and the couple stock an impressive variety of local produce.
Their bread comes from Rusbridge Bakery in Tunbridge Wells and they source ice cream and cheese from Hall Place Farm in Leigh.
“We know everyone in the village and it’s about being loyal to your customers, supplying what they want, everyday and specialist items,” says Mr Masrani.
“It’s important to provide local produce because people are more into that in the villages these days.”
Villager Denise Reynolds adds: “We’re so proud of our shop. You always receive such a warm welcome in here, and it’s so much more than a convenience store, with all the local produce they stock.”
Bidborough Stores may be a success story but the Masranis are also well aware of the problems that village shops face in the modern era – the post office was closed down in 2008.
“When we took the shop on, they told us they weren’t going to close it,” relates Mr Masrani. “Then 15 months down the line bang, they shut it.
“They told us that we could open it up again but they said we would have to fund it ourselves.” They were quoted a fee of £10,000 for set-up costs in January this year.
Countryside Alliance Awards director Jill Grieve said: “This has been a record year for nominations, showing how much the public values and supports our hard-working rural businessmen and women.
“The Rural Oscars were set up to champion those who go the extra mile for their communities and it is an honour to offer a voice to rural business in this way.” The regional winners will be announced in February.
Earlier this year the store was runner-up to Speldhurst Village Stores and Post Office in the neighbouring village for the award of Best All-Round Rural Retailer in Kent.