IT MIGHT be winter and the open door is letting in the cold in, but the owner of the tiniest gift shop in West Devon is still welcoming customers.

Christine Rickard’s open-door policy is essential, otherwise potential customers think Devon & Moor Gifts is closed. She came to retail quite late in her career and was given the best possible beginning as a stallholder inside the main Tavistock Pannier Market which has grown many a start-up.

This included a spell in a mock log cabin outside in Bedford Square where she suffered the extremes of heat and cold, but learned what a caring town Tavistock is.

“It might have been an inhospitable place to trade, but I was treated so well by customers and other traders that it helped me through the worst. I soon learned Tavistock is a caring place and that I’d made the right choice in moving from Berkshire to start up in retail for the first time.

“I was inside the Pannier Market and I can’t praise it enough as a supportive community to start a business. The stallholders might be in competition, but they all help each other. Also, you can easily see what works and what doesn’t in terms of products and service because it’s open plan. You can learn from good and not so good practice. I have taken that into my outer unit now. It’s very small, but is enough for me. I also don’t pressure people and it would be unusual if I didn’t see a familiar face during the week.”

In contrast to her granite-floored micro-shop, Christine spent years working for the giant Dulux company in Slough near the family home formulating, testing and selling and paint.

She and her baritone husband, who sang at services following the deaths of Princess Margaret and Princess Diana when he worked and lived at St George’s Chapel Windsor, started the business. She took it on alone on his death. She is close to retirement age, but is continuing: “I love doing this and meeting new people, so I have no intention of stopping.”