Valley Organics, the specialist grocers in the centre of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, opened on 4 June as usual but with new owners – the employees. With expert advice from The Co-operative Enterprise Hub and finance from The Co-operative Loan Fund they have set up a co-operative and bought the business from the previous owners who are moving on.
Valley Organics is a well-established business that specialises in organic, ethical and local food and goods. It has built up a very loyal customer base over the last 12 years and managed to bounce back after the shop was devastated in the serious floods that struck the town in 2012. When the two owners announced that they were planning to relocate the staff immediately started to look at how they could keep the business going.
The Co-operative Enterprise Hub, which provides advice and training, helped the six members to register a workers’ co-operative and negotiate the business transfer. The members raised the finance to buy the business, fixtures and fittings and lease from a combination of their own money, loan stock from customers and a loan from The Co-operative Loan Fund, which lends exclusively to co-operatives.
One of the members, Sally Hayes, said: “The shop has been selling good organic produce and wholefoods for more than 12 years. The previous owners, Jackie and Elaine, have done a wonderful job. When they decided to move on, we jumped at the chance to buy this thriving business. Recent research by the Soil Association shows that organic shoppers are abandoning supermarkets in favour of independent shops – and our loyal customers bear this out. The veg box scheme is going from strength to strength, shop sales are on the up and we’re looking at stocking new lines.”
Ian Taylor of The Co-operative Loan Fund said: “I’m confident that this co-operative takeover of an existing business will be a success. They are a very good team who know the business well and have a deep commitment to organic and ethically sourced food and the environment. They seem to work well together and have good ideas for improving the business.”