Posted: 22.06.20 at 12:07 by Hannah Corfield
A man celebrating his 95th birthday, and his first time out since lockdown, enjoyed VIP treatment at the local garden centre where he is a very loyal customer.
Lionel Smith chose to celebrate at Otter Garden Centres in Ottery St Mary and so the Otter team members worked hard - within social distancing guidelines - to make his visit memorable.
They rolled out the red carpet, with a banner, balloons, cake and birthday card from founders Marilyn and Malcolm White, signed by many team members.
It was the first time Lionel had left home since lockdown measures were introduced, and he came with wife Barbara to choose his birthday presents.
The couple moved to Devon 30 years ago after Lionel retired as a scientist. As a keen gardener, his first question to a new neighbour was “where can I find a good garden centre?” and he was duly directed to Otter.
Lionel and Barbara have been loyal customers ever since. Barbara said: “All our garden has come from Otter!”
The garden centre seemed the obvious choice for the big day. Daughter and son-in-law Jenny and Tony Seculer drove from Newbury in Berkshire for a socially distanced shop with them.
Lionel brought his shopping list; first up were the basics, like orchid compost and other essentials, but his face lit up with a smile when he saw the plants.
“Lionel has such a love of gardening and passed that to Jenny, who took a degree in horticulture," explained Tony. "When they got to selecting plants, it was like watching two children in a sweetshop!”
Otter Garden Centre Managing Director, Jacqui Taylor was there to wish Lionel a happy birthday. She added: “We’re delighted that Lionel decided to spend his 95th birthday with us, and we hope he enjoyed his birthday cake!
“Many of our customers are regulars who have shopped at Otter for many, many years, and we feel like they’re part of our family.”