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#922 Community shops keep rural villages alive

By Cathryn Wellner / January 24, 2014
Bigton Community Shop

A friendly greeting at the Bigton Community Shop; photo from their Facebook page

While looking for something else online, I stumbled across the community shops in the UK. In the past 20 years, more than 300 of them have opened. Only 13 have ever closed. They are a promising model for rural communities, where commercial shops often have a tough time remaining profitable.

The Plunkett Foundation, which helps rural communities through co-operatives and community ownership, offers assistance in developing the community-owned shops. This is the way they describe them:

Some use innovative techniques to solve space issues, like trading out of their village church or transforming disused toilets; some build their own premises as eco-buildings, making use of the very latest technology, some even go underground! Many choose to extend their services to provide healthcare, library services or café facilities. But what unites them is their ability to transform struggling, often isolated villages into vibrant rural communities, united and engaged in making the community shop a success for generations to come.

Here are some examples of thriving, community-owned shops in the UK:

Shops like these make a huge difference in remote rural communities. Some have paid staff. Others are run solely by volunteers. Whatever their structure, they provide more than the goods they sell. They provide place to gather and a sense of hope for the sustainability of small rural communities.

You can follow the Plunkett Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.


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