Plum jam and homemade scones unites local community
The Blockley community, Gloucestershire, like over 230 others, decided to form a co-operative, and opened a shop and café in the centre of the village, when they learned that their last remaining shop and post office was about to close.
Over £84,000 was quickly raised through membership subscriptions, donations, grants and a loan. In April 2008 volunteers refitted the premises, with support from local firms including builders, designers, engineers and IT specialists.
Overwhelming support from The Village CORE Programme ensured that the shop could open its doors and start trading like any other successful co-operative. The programme is a partnership between the Plunkett Foundation, Co-operative and Community Finance and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and is supported by the Lankelly Chase Foundation. It provides a funding package alongside dedicated specialist business support.
By May 2008 there was a thriving new village shop and café selling groceries, newspapers, beer and wines, fresh seasonal vegetables, and meat, from the local farm shop. The café - where free broadband is available - is a popular meeting place for locals and visitors of all ages. A full post office service is provided.
Blockley Village Shop and Café’s manager, Chris Grimes, says that running a co-operative takes the emphasis away from outright profit. “We try to meet everyone’s needs, even if we sell something at cost. We have to cover ourselves overall in order to survive, but it’s not our only motive. We like to know our customers by name and make special efforts to help them if they are ill or in difficulty during bad weather. I get the impression that many people use our shop because they feel they own a bit of it. The customers also feel the managers are approachable and will be more likely to listen to their comments because we are a community shop”
For people without a car, such as Patrick Davison, who lives in sheltered accommodation over the road, the shop is a lifeline. "I go there several times a day," he says. "I couldn't manage without it."
The co-operative always welcomes new members, with a joining fee of £10.