Cheswardine villagers open Community Shop

PUBLISHED: 18:19 19 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:12 20 February 2013

Cheswardine villagers open Community Shop

Cheswardine villagers open Community Shop

The villagers of Cheswardine are opening their own shop, it may be small but it's a huge local asset, says Claire McNamee

Little shop big achievement

The villagers of Cheswardine are opening their own shop, it may be small but its a huge local asset, says Claire McNamee

When the village shop in Cheswardine, near Market Drayton, closed its doors in October 2008 after the owners retired, villagers were left with a five mile trek to the nearest store. Fast forward 18 monthsand local volunteers are busy setting up their own Community Shop opened on May 22 which, at a mere 10 feet by 10 feet, could see them as the proud owners of the UKs smallest shop.

Back in 2008, after gathering local views, it was decided that a replacement for the closed store was needed in the parish of approximately 450 households and a working group was formed. The first hurdle was finding appropriate and affordable accommodation and after several unsuccessful searches, an old wash-house attached to the Fox and Hounds pub was discovered, hidden behind a bush. With permission from the owners, Joules Brewery, the volunteers set about cleaning and refurbishing the diminutive structure.

This was undertaken by the planning committee, of 10 members, chaired by Amanda Parish, who have worked tirelessly to raise the 7,500 funding for the project with help from local businesses and organisations. Costs have included interior refurbishment with shelving and a counter; planning and installation of an access path and ramp; a new wall and fencing and of course the stock of milk, bread and newspapers, among other household essentials.

Committee member Eileen Ware said: The budget is very tight and we are seeking more funds. We have to consider items which might need to be replaced and some room for expansion at present there is no spare cash.

A 10 share scheme launched in April gives members the chance to vote at meetings and elect the management committee. As well as a rent-free shop building, the group has been offered the Fox and Hounds pub as a meeting and training venue.

The running of the tiny shop will be wholly manned by unpaid volunteers. Currently, there is a rota of about 20 people whose professional expertise encompasses many areas including planning and purchasing, retail, personnel training, charity fundraising, teaching, IT, PR and marketing and catering. The volunteers have even bought their own printed Cheswardine Community Shop T-shirts.

They plan to open the shop twice a day in the week and for two hours in the morning at weekends. As Eileen explains, it will fulfil more than just a practical role: As well as somewhere to go for those forgotten, last minute purchases like Aunt Agness birthday card, much more importantly, it will provide a focal point for the community, the different organisations that operate in the parish will be able to put up notices, people can stand and talk.

And of the volunteers who have made it possible, she says: People have been amazing, a real community.

So with ever-increasing numbers of independent rural retailers closing, the residents of Cheswardine have provided a timely reminder that their community spirit is alive and kicking.

The location may be small in stature but the Community Shop will represent something much bigger.

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