THE Week St Mary community has celebrated taking over the local shop and Post Office in the village, after it was passed on due to the retirement of the owner.
On Sunday, March 5, the community of Week St Mary took control of the shop and Post Office, on the retirement of the current proprietor.
Jeff Roberts had run the business for 36 years, but was unable to find a buyer to take it over. He and his wife, Monica, therefore approached the parish council about the prospect of the community acquiring it, recognising the need to preserve this vital community resource.
After a public meeting in October 2016, a feasibility study group was formed, which reported back positively at a second meeting in early December.
There was a clear show of public support and pledges were received to help establish a community-owned shop.
Since then, a determined group of locals have set up a community benefit society, Week St Mary Community Shop Limited, and have been hard at work raising funds and preparing for the takeover.
Over £20,000 for working capital was raised through a community share issue, which enables people to become members — and democratic owners — of the shop, and grants of £1,600 were received from Week St Mary Parish Council and the local county councillor’s community chest, to cover start up costs.
The society will lease the current shop premises from Jeff and Monica for the next four years, creating time for longer term options to be assessed.
Lee Bacchus, chair of the society, said: “Parish support has been critical and our success is testament to the strong community spirit in Week St Mary. One hundred and ten parishioners invested to keep our shop and Post Office open and we have 20 volunteers who will support two part-time employees in running the operation.”
The official opening of the community shop will be on Saturday, April 8, to give time for the new shop signage, some layout changes and re-stocking.
Chair of Week St Mary Parish Council, Micheline Smith, said: “This has been a tremendous effort by the community. In the space of a few months, we have gone from the prospect of losing our shop, Post Office and main community hub, to having its future secured for at least the next four years. To an isolated community like ours, this is fantastic news.”