Community shops have been on the rise for a number of years; in 1994 there were just 27 registered community shops while in 2016 this number had risen to 348. Community shops are owned and funded by the local community often in rural areas without access to other means of provision. These shops are able to compete with their bigger, nationwide counterparts by focusing on maintaining a loyal customer base, staffing their shops with a mostly volunteer workforce and often providing other community activities including workshops, craft schemes and cafe facilities. Here we explore a few of our local community shops and the work that they do.
Ide Community Shop was opened in 2013 following the closure of the village post office. A temporary shop was housed in a portable cabin but after a fundraising effort by local residents, permanent premises were purchased and today the shop is a thriving business. Staffed by 50 volunteers the shop sells a range of locally sourced produce including artisan cheeses, Chunk of Devon pies and pasties and a variety of sliced meats as well as locally made cakes, chocolates and ice creams. Following growing awareness to the dangers of single use plastics the shop has committed to reducing its own plastic waste and in an innovative move now stock reusable cotton bags made by local residents. These pretty, colourful bags make a refreshing change to flimsy plastic bags and can be used again and again.
Cheriton Fitzpaine Community Shop has similar origins to those just described; in 2016 the owners of the village shop and post office retired and the shop had to close. Local residents became concerned that the loss of the shop as a community hub would be keenly felt and a small group began researching the idea of re-opening. In May 2017 that idea was realised. The community shop is currently housed in a temporary building adjacent to the Methodist Chapel while the necessary planning permissions and building work continue for permanent premises. The management team focuses on providing the best produce possible for their customers sourced from local producers including bacon, sausages, pies, pasties and savouries, cheese, dips and olives, chocolates, jams and chutneys as well as everyday staples such as bread, eggs and milk. Run by a small army of volunteers the Cheriton Fitzpaine Community Shop has also become a local hub promoting locally run events, displaying public notices and functioning as a place for people to meet.
Otterton’s last convenience shop closed its doors in 2004 despite efforts to try and save it by the local community. In the intervening years residents began canvassing opinion from local residents as to whether to open a community run shop. Over a three year period this group of volunteers hosted fundraising events, scouted for premises and finally obtained planning permission to refurbish the snooker hall and the current community shop opened in 2014. Staffed by a majority of volunteers the shops mission is to cater to the needs of local people, providing not only everyday staples such as milk, bread and cereal but also locally sourced meat, fish, pies and pasties, wine, beer and liqueurs and frozen, high quality ready meals. The shop is able to compete with its larger, national counterparts by competitive pricing and a focus on local produce.
These three community shops are linked by their stringent sense and love of community; each is run by a group of volunteers willing to give up their time and expertise to the project and provide the best service possible to their local residents. In an era filled with convenience deliveries and big business, we are happy to see these small, local focused shops succeed and wish them all the best of luck for the coming year.