SHOPPERS at Owlsmoor gaped at two eerily familiar figures on Saturday morning -one fat, with a toothbrush moustache, and the second thin, pale and gormless looking.

It was those two inseparable buddies from the black and white cinema- Laurel and Hardy- played by lookalikes Gary Slade and Jim McClure.

Together with Sandhurst Mayor, Peter North, the bowler hatted duo were at the Yeovil Road shopping centre for the formal opening of Buddy's Place, a new concept in neighbourhood stores.

Explained the manager, Emma Grant: " Laurel and Hardy are the best known buddies of all time so we thought it would be appropriate for them to open our shop."

The shop offers an exclusive Buddy's brand of clothing at prices that are competitive with those in the bigger shopping centres. The idea is that local people will no longer have to travel to obtain good quality clothes at the right price.

Says Emma: "This is totally community orientated and if it works it could be extended to other communities like this. We will listen to what local people want and stock accordingly."

One of the shop's ideas is for children and teenagers to be able to buy clothes under a pocket money scheme. They will be able to make weekly payments until they reach the price and then they can take the item home. Buddys can also supply promotional items for local clubs and organisations.

Krys Scales and Catherine Fielder from Bracknell Forest Council were delighted to see the council owned premises in use again.

Said Krys: "It's lovely to see the finished product and transformation of the shop."

The only members of the community who will not find Buddys to their liking are shoplifters. Every item on show is security locked and the actual stock is kept behind the counter. When customers find something they like they have to take the number to the assistant in order to buy.

The range covers clothing for all ages as well as school accessories, soft toys and other items. Many of the clothes can "buddy up" with existing items in customers' wardrobes.

The irrepressible Peter North, who for once found himself upstaged by the lookalikes, was also pleased to see the shop transformed. What was once "another fine mess" is now breathing new life into the Owlsmoor community.