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It’s not every day a SPAR store gets a royal visitor, but that was the honour for the Tinnion family in Devizes when Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit to the popular community shop.

She called into the store during a series of engagements in Wiltshire to recognise the work carried out at the family-run store to keep the community supplied with groceries during the pandemic.

Owner Derek Tinnion gave the Duchess a tour of the store during her visit, introduced her to some local suppliers and presented her with a small hamper of local produce.  She also met Derek’s 95-year-old mother Irene, who ran the store before him.

The SPAR store and post office has been run by the Tinnion family since 1960 when Irene and her late husband John moved from London to Wiltshire and took over the business.  Derek, who bought the store from Irene 38 years ago, has eight relatives supporting him in the business.

“The Duchess was so nice and understood what we were all about, being a community store,” said Derek.  “Seeing my mother introduced to her made me really happy as she was over the moon with it.

“I can’t get over the lovely comments we’ve received on Facebook since the visit, and it was very nice to see all the locals come together.  The last couple of years have been very difficult, but everyone has been fantastic.  We kept trading, did all the home deliveries for the elderly and people self-isolating.”

For six months staff worked around the clock to replenish stock and ensure uninterrupted supply and a new phone service was launched to ensure residents received their groceries.