STORES across the country reopened on Monday and for some Wee County businesses, it couldn't come quickly enough.

Non-essential stores were forced to shut at the beginning of the year as the Covid-19 infection rate continued to rise.

Now, thanks to the most recent lockdown and the continuing rollout of the vaccine, stores were finally able to reopen their doors and hoped they'd be open for good.

Diane Brown, project manager at Alloa First, was out and about the Wee County on Monday and she said the feedback from store owners and customers was great.

She told the Advertiser: "Businesses are delighted to be back and they've all been busy which is great news.

"We're so glad stores are able to reopen and we encourage everybody to think local and shop local."

One store that reopened on Monday had barely opened its doors for the first time when the last lockdown forced the doors closed.

Ruth Galloway, owner of Guid Reads in Alva, said: "We opened in September so we got that block of time up until Christmas to have the doors open.

"[We were] incredibly busy, we're a hub for the community, we've got a community jigsaw and a reading space."

Guid Reads' motto is 'More than just a bookshop' and that ethos runs throughout the whole shop.

It isn't a coffee shop but there's a kettle there for a cup of tea or coffee to offering people a place to connect in a café environment without having to pay.

Ruth continued: "I cannot wait to open the doors. It's more than books, the books are really a cover for us to be able to do some good things for the community.

"None of our books are priced and anything we make over and above what we need to keep the doors open goes to local good causes."

Guid Reads will open until 7.30pm so people who are working from home still have somewhere they can go and have a chat or a cup of coffee and get out the house.

Lynn Cameron, owner of Higglety Pigglety, can't wait for her customers to be able to browse the store after months of doorstop collections.

She said: "It'll be nice to have all the customers back in."

Despite the months of closed stores, Lynn's been busy working on orders and preparing her garden.

She continued: "I had a few big orders from people last year in the new houses that have just been built, needing curtains and blinds so I've been doing that and re-upholstering chairs."

Lynn is part of Scotland's Gardens Scheme, a charity which raises money for other charities by opening up private gardens to the public. Homeowners provide the tea and coffee and visitors make a donation.

Meanwhile, the store recently celebrated its 13th birthday. Asked if she'd be open to customers bringing cake to celebrate, Lynn said: "That would be nice."

What's clear is Lynn can't wait to see her loyal customers in person.

She added: "My regulars that get wool to knit for babies will be able to come in and see all the colours instead of me taking it to the door.

"It'll be lovely not to have to do all that."

Another space opening slightly later than the rest is the Wee Gallery on Candleriggs, which will open its doors tomorrow, April 29.

A place where customers and viewers can enjoy original art from local artists and crafters, Lynne, of the Crochet Hen, returns with a whole new range of crochet creations from rainbow tubbies – inspired by the rainbow art of the first lockdown – to mini plant pots of jute and wool for the unexpected gardener.

Tote bags by Sue of Sunshine Designs will also be available alongside her greetings cards to brighten any hand-written message.

Furthermore, for the first time, the Wee Gallery is welcoming artist Bobby Rennie.

He said: "I was once mistaken for a photographer when someone complimented one of my 'photographs' which was actually a painting. It was flattering but awkward."

The proprietor of the Wee Gallery said: "After weeks and weeks of waiting, we are delighted to be reopening the Wee Gallery.

"Our thoughts are with all who have been hit by the fallout from Covid-19."