East Harptree, a village with a population of 600 located 15 miles south of Weston-super-Mare, is one of the growing number of rural communities that own and run their own local shop. It opened in 2009 after some 230 local people bought shares in the community benefit society.
It sells all the groceries and household products you’d expect and a good range of produce from local farms. It is open seven days a week and it is run entirely by volunteers.
Charles Walker, the treasurer of the society, said: “We have over 40 volunteers and a very effective rota system. I’ll admit that at first I thought it might not work but in fact it works very well indeed. I’m sure our volunteers are more conscientious than paid employees”.
The telephone and broadband services at the shop are provided by The Phone Co-op and Charles Walker is very happy with the service, he said: “Originally we chose them because they are a co-operative and we’ve kept with them because they provide a good service. Our bills are stable and predictable which is just what you want in a small business. The finances of the shop are good, lots of people use it, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t go on and on.
“I’ve lived here for 25 years but I work in Bristol so I didn’t have a lot to do with the village. But since I got involved in the shop I now know 200 people. I think others feel the same. A community owned shop really brings people together”.
The Phone Co-op is delighted to provide services to community-owned enterprises like East Harptree Village Shop.
Guy Ohlenschlager, Corporate Sales Manager at The Phone Co-op, said: “No business is considered too small. We go out of our way to provide the best service for every customer. Helping rural communities and supporting local services are part of our social and environmental objectives”.
The Phone Co-op has formed a partnership with the Plunkett Foundation, the long-established organisation that helps rural communities take control of issues that affect them. The two organisations have a natural affinity and many shared values.
Members of Plunkett Community Enterprise can get special discounted packages of telecoms and internet services. The Phone Co-op also operates a Start-Up and Expansion Fund for new and growing community enterprises. For more information about the fund click here.
Harriet English, Membership Manager at the Plunkett Foundation, said: “Choosing suppliers that offer excellent value for money and good customer service is of paramount importance to the community co-operative network. That’s why we don’t hesitate to recommend The Phone Co-op to members of the Plunkett Community Enterprise Network".