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Toast of the town: local bakery embraces community spirit

Having opened its doors over 50 years ago, Ann’s Pantry is a staple of Larne’s town centre and despite restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the lockdown period proved to be no different for the popular bakery.

Business owner Helen Porter, who has been running the business alongside her brother since they took over from their parents 15 years ago, explained the decision not to close during lockdown was in part thanks to her father.

“Sadly, we lost my Dad a few years ago, but when the news of lockdown broke, my brother and I immediately thought about what he would do. We knew he’d say:

‘Keep your doors open and keep serving the people of Larne’. So that’s exactly what we did,” Helen explained.

“We are so grateful to our customers for all of their support not just over the last six months, but the last 50 years, so it was important to us that we continued to be there for them, even when the world was turned upside down.”

The award-winning local bakery which focuses on quality ingredients and traditional products, remained open throughout lockdown for deliveries to the local area which proved to be hugely popular.

“Our delivery service grew exponentially throughout lockdown, probably because we were able to provide a sense of comfort for locals who were isolating and quite often picked up other groceries on the way.

“I think the resounding lesson from all of this has been that we should continue to look after each other,” Helen said. The family business, located on Larne’s Main Street, is part of a community of shops there, which Helen explained she values even more since the pandemic.

“I’m proud to be from Larne and to work here. Everyone supports each other and I think this was even more evident during recent times. It’s heart-warming to see people queueing outside and chatting to each other. Shopping has become a bit of a social – albeit distanced – activity.

“Our regular customers come in not just for their bread, but also for a chat and a catch up. There’s a real sense of community and I’m delighted that Ann’s Pantry can be a centre for this. The charm and friendliness of local shops is something you just don’t get elsewhere, and it’s something we should all try to protect and support,” she said.

Helen’s sentiments are echoed by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s extensive multichannel #RediscoverMEA campaign, which is being rolled out across the borough and Northern Ireland to boost town centre recovery and shine a light on local businesses.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said:

“Our businesses are part of the lifeblood of the local economy and, now more than ever, I would encourage people to shop local.

“It’s fantastic to see such community spirit alive and well at Ann’s Pantry and the extra mile they go to ensure the safety of their customers and staff, is something which is at the centre of our #RediscoverMEA campaign.”

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