To many local businesses in Copeland, serving their community is more than just about providing a service to their customers – it is about building a relationship too.

That relationship is grounded in a sense of trust that a customer can place in his or her local businesses, to provide a reliable, quality service.

For Copeland’s businesses, which do so much to help make our area the unique place it is, that relationship means a great deal.

So, for Gary Patton, who owns Patton’s Family Butchers in Millom along with his wife Denise, to be inundated with messages of support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has meant a lot indeed.

“We’ve kept going right the way through the pandemic,” Gary said.

Patton’s has always provided a delivery service, bringing its high-quality produce straight to the customer’s doorstep.

But the service really came into its own during the lockdown, and now once again is particularly welcomed by Patton’s loyal customers.

These have grown in number throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with a lot of customers trying out the services of Patton’s for the first time.

For Gary, the advantage of turning to an independent business is clear. “The service we provide is more personal,” he said. “The beauty of being a local shop is that if there is an issue, a problem, we can rectify that in minutes.

“That’s the beauty of being able to deliver locally.”

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Gary and his team have been buoyed throughout the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic by the strength of the positivity that customers have displayed towards the Millom butcher’s.

“We’ve gotten loads of nice comments from customers,” he said.

“It’s been really nice, the way so many people have told us they want us to keep going. ‘Whatever you do don’t stop’ is the sort of message we get, which really does mean a lot.”

Some customers have even been motivated to send cards of thanks to the team.

“It’s been a really nice response to our deliveries,” Gary said.

“It’s been lovely to be treated that way.”

With December beginning next week, the minds of many customers will likely soon turn to their plans for Christmas.

This year, however, Gary said Patton’s had already had a significant number of Christmas orders placed.

“I’ve never had Christmas orders come in this early,” he said.

“It’s been a good response this year, more so than other years.

“It normally doesn’t start until the start of December.

“I wasn’t expecting there to be as many orders as this at this time.”

Gary said he put this down to customers seeking the reliability that a small business can provide to its customers, and the guarantee that a business like Patton’s will strive for the highest quality.

“We’re looking for the best quality that we can give a customer,” he said.

“I think people are realising that.”

Patton’s will always try to fulfil a customer’s Christmas order needs, even if that call comes in on Christmas Eve.

“If we can, we will try and fulfil an order. It’s very rare that we have to tell a customer that it’s not possible,” Gary said.

For him, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for Copeland’s businesses to demonstrate the qualities that set them apart.

“Quality, reliability, personal service, these are things that we’ve always kept to, but I think this experience has brought these things to the fore, so that people can see them.

“It’s the kind of shop we’ve always been, and we will always make sure to keep to that.”