There’s a risk involved with any store refit. But when it’s your only store, and you’re spending £750,000 to dramatically alter the offer of a family-owned forecourt (and need to buy out the other side of the family), it’s a high stakes gamble. Owners David and Ann Charman even had to switch banks.

But the gamble has paid off in spades. Transforming the 1,500 sq ft c-store on his BP forecourt in West Malling, Kent to a 2,800 sq ft mini food emporium in March 2013, sales in the first four weeks increased 45% year-on-year - and have grown ever since. In the process the Blakemore Spar refit has shattered the perception that garage forecourt stores can only be top up and food to go stops, and saw Spar Parkfoot walk away with a trio of awards, including Convenience Retailer of the Year 2014, at the Convenience Retail Awards in March.

As soon as you walk through the door it’s clear this isn’t your bog standard petrol forecourt convenience operator. There’s a range of self-pour olive oils that customers can decant into their container of choice. And throughout the store there’s a vast array of local produce on display from 80 premium suppliers including cheeses, crisps and a superbly presented fresh produce section. “It’s really exciting to be able to take local produce that people in the area know, but they can’t buy it anywhere else but here,” says Charman.

Another highlight is the “incredibly popular” artisan breads - many from France - which are baked in store and retail from £1 to £2.69. And the improved off-licence area - stocking an extended range of Spar wines but also many local beers and ciders - enjoyed sales growth of over 40% following the refit.

But the pièce de résistance is the in-store butchery counter, staffed by two full-time butchers, who not only prepare cuts of meat, but also create their own marinades. “It’s the one thing that’s changed the view of customers coming into our store,” says Charman. “Suddenly, as opposed to being a petrol station with a convenience store, we’ve become a proper supermarket where people can buy a full Sunday roast dinner meal, and that’s been a real fillip for us.”

The food to go offer, already a strong sales performer before the refit, has been further boosted by a new coffee offer and a made-to-order sandwich counter. On the ready meal side, Parkfoot sells both the frozen Cooks range and Spar’s new chilled Italian offer. Parkfoot even sells specialist US confectionery and cereals.

Nor are the changes limited to the retail offer. As part of a drive to be greener, modern chiller doors have been fitted throughout, there’s an oil recycling facility on site for customers’ use and the store even has its own borehole, which allows it to be completely self-sufficient when it comes to water for its already significant car wash facilities.

Charman increased staff levels from 18 to 29 when the store was refurbished. It’s open 24-7, year round - even Christmas Day. And Parkfoot sold 150 turkeys this year. The response from customers when he followed up the sales with an email was “fantastic”.

But the busiest day is always Easter Sunday, and especially this year: “For five hours there were queues right to the back of the store,” says Charman.

Charman isn’t letting success go to his head. “A lot of credit goes to Spar for their support, but really it’s all about the staff,” he says of the awards. “They’re there round the clock making the store as good as it is. This award is for them and all the hard work they do on a constant basis.” And he’s not finished yet.

With sales up a further 30% in 2014 (following a 70% increase in 2013), Charman plans to add two extra staff. “We’ve been on an exciting journey. The store has changed out of all recognition, it’s been a massive learning curve for all of us, and very rewarding. But we are only 50% there. There’s still much to learn.”