‘Heart-wrenching’ break in at community shop

“It’s heart-wrenching.” Those were the words of the owner of Penwood community shop Woodlands, after heartless burglars ram-raided the building. Thieves targeted the store in the early hours of Monday, around an hour before the Hermitage Co-op was also broken into using a similar method.

Sandra Lawson took over the store in 2018 Sandra Lawson took over the store in 2018

In Penwood, the burglars allegedly reversed a truck into the store, breaking through the glass front door, before entering the shop and stealing tobacco.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, owner Sandra Lawson, who took over the community shop in June 2018 with her son-in-law Jamie Dennis, tried to put on a brave face, but said: “It’s heart-wrenching.

“We’ve worked so hard – we’ve only had it for four years.

The temporary front door The temporary front door

“It was a big gamble to take it on, we’ve slowly built it up – and then someone just comes along and pops your bubble.” The shop is a real family affair, with Mrs Lawson’s daughter, Karen Dennis, often working there, as well as her granddaughters.

Mrs Lawson took it on after it had sat empty for around three years, starting it from a blank canvas with no customers. The 62-year-old said her first emotion was anger when she heard of the break-in, and added it had “completely knocked the air out of us”.

The aftermath of the break-in (56424987) The aftermath of the break-in (56424987)

She continued: “We’re a corner shop, we don’t make a fortune.

“Nowadays with the pandemic we’re running from week to week. “That’s just completely knocked the air out of us, and possibly puts the future of the shop at risk. “Like all the corner shops and little village shops during the pandemic, we kept the community going.

“We were the ones who made sure we had milk and bread because people didn’t want to go into the busy places.” The community has already begun to rally around the store, and a GoFundMe page has been sent up by local resident Dawn Watmore to support the business. She said on the page: “I’m wanting to raise funds to help our local family-run shop that was sadly burgled over the bank holiday weekend.

“Not only has this hit them very hard but they now have to keep going without the stock that these vile people stole. “They are not a franchise so new stock will have to come out of their own pocket. “This family went above and beyond for people on our estate and the local community during the Covid-19 pandemic [and] I’d really appreciate if we could come together to give a little back.”

To donate, visit https://bit.ly/3FbKv17 A Hampshire Police spokesperson said: “We were called at 12.35am on Monday, May 2, to reports of a burglary at the Woodlands Store in Penwood. “A group of men wearing balaclavas gained access to the store and items, including alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco, were removed from shelves.

“Officers have launched an investigation and are carrying out enquiries. “Were you in the area in the time? Did you witness the incident?

“Do you have CCTV images, Ring doorbell or dash-cam footage that could help our investigation?

“Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting 44220171203.

“Alternatively, go online and submit information via this link https://www.hampshire.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/cor/tell-us-about-existing-case-report/.”