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:
- Papay Community Shop on Orkney offers groceries, wines and beers, petrol, diesel, coal and local crafts, postcards and publications.
- At the south end of Shetland Island, the Bigton Community Shop offers fresh meat, fish, vegetables and locally baked goods, as well as local crafts and a lot of other stock.
- The Broadhempston Community Shop and Post Office occupies a space that has been a shop for over one hundred years and is the only shop in the village.
- The Burton-in-Lonsdale Village Shop and Post Office is a village meeting place that offers local produce and meats, bakes its own bread and is planning to open a cafe.
- The Gartmore Village Shop and Post Office is well stocked with groceries and crafts, as well as wine and whiskey.
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.