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Funded by Power to Change and Access – the Foundation for Social Investment. In partnership with Locality

York Supplies: Continuing the legacy of a ‘kind place’ to shop

Case study

25th October 2023
York Supplies, Birmingham
Tahir Ali MP and York Supplies Community Co-op Chair Naomi Standen at the launch of the organisation’s community share offer

When a local trader decided to retire, customers of his much-loved Birmingham store rallied round to preserve it as a valued community hub. 

York Supplies hardware store has been at the heart of Kings Heath in Birmingham since 1947.

“It’s a traditional hardware shop where you can buy all the things you need for working on the house and home,” said local resident Naomi Standen. “There’s also an outstanding selection of plants.”

In 1986, the store was bought by Jon Jaffa, whose ethos was to be of service to the local community, helping people fix things and solve problems.

“He’ll sell you half a dozen screws instead of charging you for 200, if that’s what you want,” Naomi said. “It’s a very kind place. Jon has always got time to talk – and a lot of conversations happen in the shop.

“He does a lot of community stuff too, like looking after the local litter picking equipment. It’s already a community hub, as well as being a hardware store and a place where people can get advice and help.”

It’s this ethos that has made York Supplies much loved by local people. So much so, that when Jon decided to retire in 2022, a group of them took action because they didn’t want the store to be sold to a developer – and Jon was happy to wait until they were in a position to buy it, so he could sell it to them.

York Supplies outgoing owners Jon and Jean Jaffa being photographed by the Birmingham Mail
York Supplies outgoing owners Jon and Jean Jaffa being photographed by the Birmingham Mail

“People from the area saw the ‘for sale’ sign outside the shop and several came up with the idea of a community buy out at the same time,” said Naomi. “One of them put a QR code on the counter as a contact point and it grew from there.”

Several meetings later, a committee was formed. “We decided to set up a community benefit society (CBS) – with a view to taking over ownership of the shop – after an open workshop attended by about 15-20 people.

“We became a CBS because we needed an asset lock to ensure a property developer couldn’t take it over. We wanted to make sure that if it was ever sold on, it would have to be to another CBS,” Naomi explained.

The group launched a share offer in July 2023 and when it closed on 11 September, they had raised nearly £350,000 from more than 700 investor members.

Quote mark
Much of what is going on in the world, ordinary people feel they can’t do anything about. Whereas they knew that if they were part of this offer, they could help make something good happen and gain a sense of agency.
– Naomi Standen, Chair, York Supplies Community Co‑op

Word of the offer also reached local MPs and councillors, as well as comedians Joe Lycett and Janice Connolly (who performs as Mrs Barbara Nice), who all lent their support to the campaign.

To ensure the success of their offer, the group had to prepare an attractive and professional share offer document. That’s where the Community Shares Unit at Co‑operatives UK came in, by providing Booster Fund development grants to the value of £9,534.

“The Booster Fund support helped us achieve the Community Shares Standard Mark – the guarantee of a quality share offer,” said Naomi.

“Up until this point, we’d done things on a shoestring and were relying on money the committee had loaned to the operation. Getting the development grant meant we could pay for professional help to make sure the share offer document was as good as it could be.

“We were going to apply for equity funding from the Booster Fund but in the end we didn’t because our share offer was so successful.

“We are enormously grateful to Co‑operatives UK for keeping on offering us different ways they could help, if we needed it. We really appreciated their supportive approach.

“I can’t speak highly enough of people at Co-operatives UK for caring, knowing who we were and supporting us.”

Comed character Mrs Barbara Nice (played by actor Janice Connolly) outside York Supplies
Comedy character Mrs Barbara Nice (played by Janice Connolly) recording a video for the share offer launch

With Jon set to close the doors on his shop for the final time in December 2023, the new owners are aiming to take over, spruce the place up and re-open by mid-January 2024.

“We want to retain the ethos and all the things the shop does. We will need to make some changes of course, but people have invested in keeping it basically as it is. So we aim to add and improve, not remove or replace things that people value,” said Naomi. 

“It’s not just about making money. It’s about being useful to people, providing things they want and contributing to the community around the shop.

“That’s pretty unusual these days. It’s about giving something back to life that makes it worth living.”

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