Older people and young families living in a remote village have been able to shop on their doorsteps thanks to a Wiltshire Community Foundation grant. Villagers in Minety have been campaigning for their own store for more than two years and when the county went into lockdown, the committee behind the campaign set up a pop-up shop, which has been given £1,200 from the community foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund to help it keep going.
The village, where almost 25 per cent of 1,500 population are over 65, has no shops and is seven miles from the nearest supermarket in Malmesbury.
Committee member Val Essam said: “Public transport is virtually non-existent and also quite a lot of people are isolating who are not easily able to get out to the shops. When people began shielding, we trialled having a table outside the school and then the village hall committee offered us the use of the committee room at the back of the hall. We got shelves and signage made by volunteers and the set-up done really quickly.”
The shop is open every weekday from 2pm to 5pm and has been so popular with villagers that it could become permanent.
Shopkeeper Rachel Swatton sources basic foods and household essentials from supermarkets and local suppliers each morning – and can also fulfil specific requests made on the shop’s Facebook page. “Rachel even got toilet rolls when no one else could get them and she has flour including bread flour,” said Mrs Essen.
“At this time, we are running at a loss, which is why the funding from Wiltshire Community Foundation has helped so much. We have just bought a cashless card reader so that we can work without cash.”
Volunteers are already planning for the future so that the shop can work on a sound financial footing. “They are looking at supply chains and getting supply sources for the future because we have had to do this so quickly,” said Mrs Essen.
“We will be looking at wholesalers and also suppliers of local producers, beer and cider producers, bakeries and so on. We have a good vision. At the moment we are making this run but we are beginning to plan long-term.”
Already the committee has learned valuable lessons about opening hours and product lines and the presence of the shop in a central location with parking has re-ignited interest in a permanent shop.
Mr Essen said: “We did a survey a couple of years ago and we had a really high response from people who overwhelmingly wanted a shop. But we’ve struggled over the last 18 months to engage the
village in making it happen. Now they have seen it is a possibility and how much it is appreciated, that has renewed the interest.”
Good feedback from customers and trade have steadily grown. Mrs Essen said: “The committee who were involved in the set-up did an amazing job to get it all in place and we were very appreciative of the village hall being so supportive and continuing to be, in the hope that we can work towards something more permanent for the village.
“Having done what we’ve done and seen what it possible they are very much open to working with us. Once the lockdown is over, they will allow us to continue working there for a year at a nominal rent, which will give us all breathing space to look at what’s possible.
“The grant has been a huge help with salary, travelling expenses and essential equipment. It has helped us get established and not dig into our hard-won capital that will be going toward the eventual premises.”
Find out more about the Minety Community Shop on its Facebook page.
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.