Established: 1974 Turnover: £1.74m No of stores: Two Size of store: 1,000 sq ft Tucked away in the tiny village of South Nutfield, Surrey, is the country's best independent c-store. At 1,000 sq ft, it's pretty small. But what Holborn's lacks in size, it makes up for in service. This and a radical transformation of the store over the past two-and-a-half years by owner Dean Holborn helped it scoop the award for the UK's best independent store at last month's Convenience Retail Awards, held in association with The Grocer's sister title Convenience Store magazine. Holborn, who is director of the family-run business and also runs another store five minutes down the road in Redhill, bought the South Nutfield store, now very much part of the community, in July 2005. He gutted the original shop, completely refitting and extending it at a cost of £100,000. Despite the huge investment and visible improvement, Holborn's was initially met with caution by some members of the local community. "We bought a store in a very tight village community and we had to change a lot of habits," he says. "The previous owner used to run an account book, but I knew the down side of sticking stuff in a book is that people forget to pay. From day one I put a stop to it, which some of the locals didn't like. A lot of them thought Jack the Ripper had taken over their shop." Holborn's experience with the Redhill store eventually saw him through this rough patch. "We had a template at the other store that we have used for the Nutfield store and it has worked," he says. The template, it turns out, is straightforward. Holborn gives customers what they want, makes it his business to offer a personal service - he is on first-name terms with his customers - and then goes the extra mile. While many c-stores are moving out of newstrade, for example, Holborn's continues to deliver news because the community values the service so highly. The store's commitment to its community is the main reason why it has won recognition as one of the UK's finest c-stores. When the post office closed in 2006 Holborn expanded the store again to take it on so shoppers wouldn't have to travel to the post office in town. The store also sells local products, including turkeys and Christmas trees, and works with the local cricket team and primary school on events such as the annual fireworks display. He puts these extra touches down to good business sense rather than an overarching desire to be philanthropic. "The primary school is a big asset. Business from the parents is about £1,500 a week, so we like to support it," he says. "Retailers who are happy to support their communities will do well." Holborn's pragmatic approach to business is matched only by his drive for more success. He is considering selling the Redhill store and taking up a new challenge, one that will stretch him further still. "I'd like to see if I can do it again somewhere else," he says. "I've now got the templates to run a town and village store and I've got the product knowledge, so I'd like to use that knowledge and take on other independents and start again from scratch." If he does try his hand at another store, you wouldn't bet against him achieving similar success. n