The power of a rural community coming together – Wigginton Community Shop
LEADER helps to launch Wigginton Village Shop – boosting the local rural economy and creating sustainable change
The last shop in Wigginton village in the Chiltern Hills, shut its doors more than a decade ago.
A small group of passionate residents agreed that the community needed and would really benefit from a new shop and café selling local produce to local people, without the need to travel, and employing local people in both paid and volunteer positions.
This new community hub would provide a welcome boost to the local economy but also be a warm and friendly place for people of all ages to meet friends and make new ones.
Locals wholeheartedly agreed. Over time some 80-100 Wigginton residents mobilised and joined the working party set up to launch the shop. Local professionals investing for free their time, energy and specialist skills such as architect’s drawings, structural engineering, property law, retail management, website design and many more!
Initially there wasn’t an obvious site to locate the new community shop . Having explored a number of options, it became apparent that the village sports field lent itself perfectly, particularly as it was where the Scout Hut once stood.
The community held fundraising events and opened a community share scheme. A LEADER grant of £13,530, helped to fund the construction of the new specially designed building by a local builder and other grants then contributed to kitting out the kitchen and café.
The build started in September 2018, and the Wiggington Village Shop opened its doors to the community on 1st December 2018.
The shop and café were an instant hit and have also received professional praise having been awarded ‘best new business’ in 2019’s SME Hertfordshire Business Awards.
As well as attracting a base of regular local customers, the business has also started to become a destination for outdoor enthusiasts such as cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
Not only do Wigginton residents support the business as patrons, but over 90 volunteers have signed-up to work in the shop, with a core of 40 volunteers who have been trained up to work regular shifts serving in the café, on the till, welcoming new deliveries, cleaning etc.
The economic boost to the local community is also significant. Turnover has exceeded expectations at £20-£30k per month, with the café’s performance a bit stronger than anticipated.
The business has already hired 1 full-time manager and 2 part-time supervisors from the village and has also provided paid Summer work-experience for 6 local school leavers.
One of the key objectives of the shop and café has been to source 70% of their stock within less than a 30-mile radius. This has been one of the key successes to date – offering small local, independent and start-up producers a shop window for their wares and an opportunity to expand their businesses as well as making the shop a success.
Some of the most successful locally-produced product lines have been meat and eggs from King’s Farm in Wendover, fruit and veg, honey, artisan-baked bread and cakes, craft items, and a nano-brewery craft beer made by one of the villagers in his garden shed which has led to him significantly expanding his business.
As a business run by the community, for the benefit of the community; one of the other objectives has been to invest any profits into other local projects. The project has now made its first donation to a facelift of the neighbouring childrens’ playground in Spring 2019. This has helped in turn to drive more visitors to the shop’s café and has helped attract more visitors to other local amenities such as the neighbouring sports ground.
A ‘spare change’ pot in the shop and café raises a further £100 per month for distribution to local charities nominated by the shop’s volunteers such as Sunnyside – a local rural trust charity offering horticultural work experience for young adults with learning disabilities.
The business has also started to act as a hub hosting community events such as a mental health awareness event for local parents in partnership with Hector’s House, a locally-based national mental health and suicide prevention charity.
The café has also initiated a new ‘cake and coffee’ afternoon for older residents, replacing an old social held at the village church which sadly disbanded a while ago. One older visitor to the shop commenting “I’ve been neighbours for 8 years with this person serving me and since they’ve started volunteering in the shop, I speak to her every day and we’ve become the best of friends.”
Having established the Wiggington Village Shop, the community have realized the power of coming together to boost the local economy and create sustainable change. Looking ahead this dynamic village is now investigating how it can further reduce its environmental impact via a community renewable energy scheme, possibly installing solar panels on the roof of the shop, and further recycling and plastic-free initiatives such as a re-fill scheme.
The LEADER programme is designed to support rural businesses to create jobs, and support the rural economy
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