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Diss shop Our Country Slice of Life and its supplier pick up awards

An independent arts and crafts business has been named South Norfolk Retailer of the Year.

Our Slice of Country Life in Diss won the award for being “a truly successful hybrid of high street and online, mixed with a strong community focus and partnerships with other local businesses”.

It marks a heady rise for the venture, which only moved to its Park Road location six months ago, having outgrown its original site.

Helen Beeching is handed the award by Cllr Graham Minshull. Picture: Simon Finlay
Helen Beeching is handed the award by Cllr Graham Minshull. Picture: Simon Finlay

The brainchild of Helen Beeching, the business is no stranger to acclaim, having won a Muddy Stilettos Award in 2019 and being short-listed for the South Norfolk Business Awards in the same year.

The 41-year-old entrepreneur said: “I truly didn’t think I’d win – just being short-listed as a finalist was a surprise.

“Winning was a huge deal. To have so many customers nominate me, and then to be chosen by the judges, is amazing.

“With everything going on at the moment, it was just the boost I needed.”

Helen has spent several years working on her business, having initially started out making her own cushions and lampshades and being self-employed.

She secured her first shop in 2017, before moving to a larger premises last year.

“It’s larger, has parking for customers and is safer with Covid due to better air flow and a bathroom to wash my hands,” she said.

“Opening my first shop was a scary prospect and I was certainly nervous, but I’m thrilled I went for it.

“I can now sell other artists’ work alongside carefully selected stock and feel like a part of the community.”

The shop’s marmalade and shortbread supplier, Simon’s Table, based in Roydon, also picked up a trophy for best new business during the awards, which are organised by South Norfolk Council.

The family-run business, which has released its own marmalade gin liqueur, was commended for its “quality of products, branding and the passion for innovation” within its team.

In deciding the winner of the Retailer of the Year title, judges highlighted Our Slice of Country Life’s unique range of stock, customer care and glowing customer reviews.

The council’s citation read: “The owner delivers first-rate customer service and experience, locally sourced, ethical stock and an impressive strategy for future growth.”

It also praised an eco-friendly initiative of storing a customer’s purchased items in a box each week or month until they ask for them to be sent, or come to collect them in bulk, rather than individually.

This saves on packaging and reducing postage costs, while improving Covid safety by saving customers multiple trips.

All packaging that arrives at the store with its stock is also reused, and customers are encouraged to bring in their own excess packaging so that it can be put to use instead of finding its way into black bins.

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