One of Shetland’s most popular country shops will have new owners after Ryan and Lesley Thomson take over Tagon Stores in Voe tomorrow.
The shop was closed for stocktaking on Monday and today there was a lesson on using the till and meeting suppliers, but after that the new owners will start their new venture.
It all felt a bit “surreal”, Mr Thomson said on Monday. The 29-year-old former sales representative at the Hughson Bros wholesalers had always wanted his own business and was now feeling “excited and nervous” that it had all become reality.
“It was the right business at the right time,” he said, especially as he already knew former owners Scott and Phoebe Preston from his previous work – and they helped make his take-over as smooth as possible.
Mr Thomson said the shop would operate in the model set up by the Prestons, with the same seven-day opening as a licensed grocer selling everyday necessities and fuel, and the same 13 part-time staff.
Mr Thomson, who is originally from Unst, said he believed there was a bright future for Shetland’s couple of dozen country shops – only one had closed down in recent years – and they were not in competition with the supermarkets. However, supermarkets did “have their place”.
Tagon, he said, was well-placed at a road junction with easy parking – and there were many houses within walking distance. “It’s a peerie village but there’s an amazing amount of houses.”
Additionally, there are no other shops on the main road (without going through Lerwick) until Mainland’s in Dunrossness, and the “spread out” nature of Shetland made country shops important.
Mr Thomson said: “The good thing about Tagon is that there are no competing businesses around. It’s the only shop in Voe and we’re here to serve the Voe community primarily.
“Our aim is to continue to give residents a shop to be proud of and we’ll work hard to make sure that happens. We’re central to the village and we get lots of passing trade.”
This was proved by the number of vehicles pulling into the car park even though the shop was closed.
Mr Thomson said: “There’s a massive variety [of goods] considering the shop’s so small.”
He is not fazed by taking over the shop either. He said: “Any new job can be a gamble, but it feels less of a gamble if you’re self-employed, you have an element of control.”
Mr Thomson and his wife Lesley, a book-keeper, live at Wadbister with their three sons, James, seven, Gary, two, and Lewis, one, and intend to become involved in the Voe community.
Any requests from customers will be sourced for them, and the home delivery service, already available to the housebound, will be “expanded and formalised”.
Mr Thomson said: “If there’s any way I can help out the community I’ll do it.”
The shop will continue the “collect plus” system for the collecting and returning goods bought from mainland companies, and in the longer term may set up a website for ordering items.
Mr Thomson added: “In this day and age in retail you can’t stand still.”
Meanwhile he thanked all the rural shopkeepers who had been “so supportive” of his new venture, and Scott and Phoebe Preston who had gone “over and above” what they needed to do to ensure the shop continued to be successful.