‘Never seen anything like it’ - village shop owner’s insight as demand for essentials rockets

PUBLISHED: 06:50 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:23 27 March 2020

Ali Dent outside his shop in Hilgay, near Downham Market,  which is the only shop open due to the coronavirus. Picture: Chris Bishop

Ali Dent outside his shop in Hilgay, near Downham Market, which is the only shop open due to the coronavirus. Picture: Chris Bishop


A long-standing village shop owner has given a glimpse into how the coronavirus is impacting a typical village as he sees demand for essentials rocket.

A J Dent Butchers and Groceries shop. Picture: Ali DentA J Dent Butchers and Groceries shop. Picture: Ali Dent

Ali Dent, who runs A J Butchers and Groceries shop at Hilgay, near Downham Market, said he has been carrying on with “business as usual” despite the current circumstances.

His shop, which has been around for more than 100 years and was run by his grandfather and father before him, is one of the oldest in the area.

The 62-year-old, who was made an MBE in 2006, said since running the shop he has not “seen anything like it” and is struggling to stock essential items such as toilet roll and flour as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “The pubs and restaurants have closed now so I need the extra orders to cover their closing.

The River Wissey at Hilgay.  Picture: Chris BishopThe River Wissey at Hilgay. Picture: Chris Bishop

“It’s been busier than usual but it’s been helping me and the community.

“Over the years trade has gone down but this has boosted it up again so we’ll see what happens when it all goes back to normal.

“The trouble is getting stuff, it’s not very good.

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“I put an order in yesterday morning and only one quarter of the supplies came from that. I couldn’t get the essentials, just sweets and biscuits.”

Mr Dent said he is still well stocked with meat and food products to deal with local demand and is getting four times more people coming into his shop than before.

He said: “Meat wise, we’re doing well. We’ve got lots of chicken breasts and things like eggs, milk, vegetables and fruit stocked from local businesses and we’ll carry on doing it, as long as we get stuff.”

The butcher, who is also delivering to people in need in the area, said he is happy to do as much as he can to help.

He said: “I’m the last butcher standing and I’ll continue to do it until I drop.

“If I turn ill I will have to pack up, but at the moment I’m carrying on.

“We’ve been delivering meat, papers and food groceries to around 40 old age pensioners who can’t get out.

“I don’t know what they’d do without it. A lot of people are struggling with food orders and need the stuff as soon as they can.”

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