A VILLAGE tearoom which has remained open as a food shop and takeaway service during the third lockdown says it has received an ‘astronomical’ number of positive responses after it issued a desperate ‘use us or lose us’ plea to its fans.

Keith and Maria Greig, owners of The Grocer Chef in Ardington, near Wantage, revealed last month that they might be forced to close their business as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite their best efforts to keep the trade alive with afternoon tea takeaway services, sales continued to plummet throughout the winter months and the couple were forced to publish a warning about their possible closure online.

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In an alarming message shared with people on Facebook, the owners wrote: “It is with great reluctance that we inform our customers that we may have to close the shop in the near future as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have been lucky enough to stay open and provide a service for all of you... local to the area, who have supported us throughout these difficult times.

The Grocer Chef. Picture: Google Maps

The Grocer Chef. Picture: Google Maps

“Since then, we have had ups and downs, like many other businesses, we have seen the summer through with lots of takeaways and the shop sales drop off and after the current lockdown was announced we have seen sales decrease even further.”

Since the public message was posted two weeks ago, trade at The Grocer Chef has picked up massively.

Mr Greig said that on the morning after the Facebook post, there was a lengthy queue of shoppers outside the tearoom.

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He also said that it was not only people from Ardington who had been coming to the store, but residents from Wantage, Grove, Steventon and as far as Didcot.

Mr Greig commented: “The response from people has been absolutely astronomical.

“Our customers were horrified that we might close and they really rallied around.

“The next day, there were socially distanced queues all the way down the road, so it was all very positive.

Keith Greig inside the Grocer Chef with some of his wide-ranging stock. Picture: Ed Nix

Keith Greig inside the Grocer Chef with some of his wide-ranging stock. Picture: Ed Nix

“My poor wife was cooking for England, making homemade quiches, as our afternoon tea bookings also went through the roof.”

People also began ordering their daily shopping from The Grocer Chef, which is stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat produce, and cupboard essentials.

Mr Greig confirmed that this has made ‘a real difference’.

He added: “We had a very strong clientele when we were a restaurant but it was difficult for people to support us after we closed in March last year.

“Now, what is crucial to us are the orders for afternoon teas, which are our main source of income. That is what will keep the wheels turning.

The owner also praised his staff and said the tearoom’s current success was also owed to them.