‘The shop at Strood Green’ is a community-owned shop based in Betchworth, Surrey which was established following the closure of its local Post Office. In the space of nine months, the community raised over £80,000 to fund a local village shop and since opening in March 2009, the store already has a turnover of more than £6,000 a week. The shop secured a loan from The Co-operative Loan Fund back in October 2008 and has used the money to transform a run-down shop into the vibrant hub of the community.
TheUKhas seen an influx of community shops in recent years due the closure of small village stores, and Strood Green has become the latest community-owned shop to benefit from the Village CORE Programme. As part of the Programme, the Co-operative Loan Fund works in partnership with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Plunkett Foundation to offer community-owned shops financial aid in the form of grants and loans, as well as a range of business advice to help support the community venture.
Helen Melia, Acting Chair of the Strood Green Committee said: “Our local Post Office closed in 2006 when the owners retired. Obviously it was a great loss, as it wasn’t just the loss of postal services, but the loss of a meeting place. The community really pulled together to organise events and donate their time and money to raising the funds for a new village shop, and with the support of local businesses, community grants and the Village CORE Programme we have now achieved our goal.”
She added: “The Village CORE Programme has had such a positive effect on the shop at Strood Green. The combination of a grant, loan and community investment has been a huge incentive for residents to raise the funds, and I believe it is important that the community feel as though it has contributed to the success of this project. We have held fundraising events including selling strawberries and cream around the village, and held a number of events at the original shop so people could see the amount of wor”
The shop is run by a committee of volunteers but has also relied on the support of many of the local residents who have been involved with making sure the shop has been fitted out to a high standard, and has opened on time and on budget. Helen added: “We have received support from over 50 volunteers, both organisations and individuals, who have given their time, money and expertise to our project. Our youngest volunteer is just eight years old which demonstrates the involvement our community has shown! One of the original committee members, Jane Holmes, is now manager of the shop because of her outstanding customer service background, local knowledge and total commitment to the project.”
Helen continued: “People need to know that the shop at Strood Green offers much more than just newspapers, bread and milk- it is a ‘one-stop shop’ for residents and visitors, and I believe this to be the secret to our success. Of course we stock a wide-range of locally produced goods, but we also have services including internet access, a ‘Post Point’ service, tasting sessions and a delivery service for our housebound residents. The shop is also a café, and provides local residents with a place where they can have a coffee and a catch up. It is definitely the heart of the village.”
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