Community shops are sustainable, democratic forms of businesses that succeed where commercial ventures have failed.
In a climate that sees around 400 commercial village shops close each year, community-owned shops not only represent a better form of business, they directly respond to some of the key challenges facing rural communities today like lack of services and isolation.
They trade primarily for community benefit and their interests are linked into community control. Community shops have open and voluntary membership, whereby members are part owners of the business and all members have an equal say in how the business is run, regardless of their level of investment.
In a nutshell:
In the Chalke Valley, the retention & revitalisation of a village Shop and PO amenity was identified locally as fundamental to a thriving rural community in The Western Chalke Valley. A startup team was created in March 2012 to examine potential locations and feasibility of creating a new shop and this resulted in the creation of the Chalke Valley Community Hub as a vehicle to develop the shop along the lines of an Industrial Provident Society.
In October 2012, the start-up committee arranged two public meetings in Broad Chalke Village Hall. The purpose of the meetings was to present proposals to the Chalke Valley community, to obtain feedback at the meeting through questions and answers and to issue a questionnaire. The meetings were very well attended and the proposals received enthusiastic support. The requirement for a shop and PO facility was overwhelming.
Chalke Valley Stores opened in 2013 in the United Reform Church in Broad Chalke, and in less than two years became the hub of the valley. They stock a wide range of fresh produce, household staples and gifts, all very reasonably priced and sourced, wherever possible, from local suppliers. The hub also contains a coffee shop and post office. What makes this project special: The shop and coffee shop are run by more than 100 volunteers who give up their time for free, including teenagers on work experience. The support for the Shop and PO had the backing of no less than 96% of respondents to a Community Survey based on responses from almost 60% of the village’s 260 households (representing 650 residents). In May 2014, less than a year after opening, they won the Daily Telegraph / Countryside Alliance award for Best Village Shop / Post Office in the UK.
How you can replicate this project where you live:
- Establish local need – is a community shop required / viable / desired?
- Talk to Chalke Valley Stores or another community shop about their experience
- Identify local volunteers and organisers
- Promote the scheme to gauge local support
- Form an appropriate group to take the project forward
Find out more and get in touch: Web: www.chalkevalleystores.co.uk
Support from your local community engagement manager:
You can access documents, templates and funding advice from your local community engagement manager to help get your project started: