Pillars of the local community, retailers Charlie and Ruth Hamilton, exhibited the best of Northern Ireland’s local food producers during a Local Supplier Showcase recently at their SPAR Castlederg store and at two local primary schools.

Among those sampling and demonstrating their tasty fayre in-store were Simply Fruit and Gilfresh Produce from Armagh, Milgro Onions from Limavady and Ireland’s largest fruit and vegetable distributor, Keelings. All producers gave shoppers the opportunity to sample their products, enjoy exclusive promotions and speak directly to suppliers about the journey of their food from field to fork.

SPAR Castlederg continues to show support to their local community and beyond, with 75% of fresh foods in Henderson Group and independent stores being sourced from local suppliers across Northern Ireland. The showcase not only highlighted the offering available to shoppers in store, but also the range of local suppliers and quality produce available across the country.

As part of the showcase, SPAR Castlederg and Keelings have also been working with two local Castlederg primary schools to promote healthy eating. On Friday 19 May, Neil Farragher & Susanne Moran from Keelings paid a visit to Edwards Primary School and St Patrick’s Primary School in Castlederg, holding an assembly for the P1 – P3 pupils on the benefits of healthy eating. As part of their work with the local schools, Keelings have also made a generous donation of £500 to each school, which will be used to hold sporting events, promoting fitness and a healthy lifestyle to the pupils.

Each child also received a lunch box filled with locally sourced fruit and both teachers and parents received a goody bag sponsored by Simply Fruit, Gilfresh, Milgro and Mash Direct to help continue the message of healthy eating through the classroom to home.

Charlie commented, “We have amazing suppliers in Northern Ireland, and it’s always been important to us to support local. With suppliers from across the country making up 75% of our fresh food in store, we thought it was time to celebrate them and show them off to our shoppers. The instore showcase was a great opportunity for our shoppers to speak to the suppliers directly and hear more about where their produce is coming from.

“Being part of the community, we wanted to make an impact on local teachers and parents, but also on the younger children in our local schools, encouraging them to think about their lifestyle and healthy eating. The support from our local suppliers has been amazing and I especially want to thank Keelings for visiting the schools to deliver the important message directly, and for their generous donations!

“It’s always been important to us to show support to any local schools in our area and we welcome all opportunities to engage with our future customers.”

Charlie and Ruth Hamilton have the local community at the heart of their businesses as they own three stores across Co. Tyrone, first opening Hamilton’s SPAR, Newtownstewart in 1979, followed by SPAR Castlederg in 1995 and three years later, their Tamlaght Road SPAR opened its doors.

Over the years, the Hamilton family have made substantial investments in the local community with their store undergoing two major renovations. The most recent in 2021 transformed the store into a fresh food superstore, becoming the largest SPAR in the UK.

The development of the store allowed the family to provide top quality products and services to their shoppers, as well as introducing more jobs to the community, with their store now employing 65 staff from the local area.

Charlie, Ruth and their family are also well known and respected in the community, with their children continuing their legacy. Their son David owns three SPAR stores in Fermanagh and their daughter Louise owns Joe’s Chippy in Sion Mills. Charlie and Ruth also recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Tamlaght Road SPAR.

SPAR Castlederg is open seven days a week, 7am – 11pm.