CUSTOMERS of a pioneering Leominster organic food shop have reacted with shock and dismay to news that the business is being wound up.

Award-winning Organic Options was to have been the hub of a UK online foods business but the Broad Street shop, which sells vegetables, meat, dairy products, wine and other goods, will close at the end of August after 21 years of trading.

Three part-time staff will lose their jobs, as will manager Ian Yeomans - who learned of the closure plan three weeks ago.

Owner Mr Olugbemiga Olutumi Oke, who lives near Toronto, Canada, bought the outlet in May 2003 with plans for online ordering. But the shop had lost up to £75,000, he said.

"It's a fantastic shop with great customers but I cannot afford to continue bleeding money," said Mr Oke, speaking from London during a UK business trip.

The shop's founder, Linda Pettit, of Ivington, who is also a customer, said she cried when she learned of the closure.

"Customers have been phoning me to ask what they can do," she said.

After opening in 1984 as "Brewers Basics" selling wine and beer making sundries, Mrs Pettit put a small advertisement in the Hereford Times to "test the market" on organic vegetables.

"I had 272 telephone calls in three days," she said. "We introduced an organic produce section. It grew and grew and we renamed the business."

Manager Ian Yeomans said: "It's very sad - the staff have worked very hard."