Villagers in Harbertonford are being urged to dig deep into their pockets to support a community take-over of their essential shop and post office.
The 2019 residents survey showed strong support for a community hub in the village, and hopes are high this could be created at the popular 100-year-old shop.
The Harbertonford Community Limited (THCL) – a community benefit society – has launched a Community Share Offer in a bid to raise £60,000 to lease the premises from the owner Gerry Mulrine, who is retiring.
The group has plans to refurbish the shop and post office and create a new bar-cum-cafe to offer a much-needed, welcoming and family-friendly focal point for the community - something sadly lacking in the village since the closure of its pub in 2018.
Any profits from the shop and hub would be ploughed back into supporting local projects and individuals, says the group.
John McKay, THCL chairman, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to take ownership of a valuable resource, secure its future, and develop it so that it becomes an engine for local projects, organisations and businesses to thrive and contribute.”
The group’s vision is to create a community hub, run by the community for the community, as a thriving, profitable venture that will benefit residents, surrounding villages and visitors.
The shop on Old Road has been in the village for more than 100 years. It serves some 1,000 households and plays an essential role in village life
THCL members say it would be a “tragedy” if it closed.
Josephine Rodrigues, THCL’s marketing consultant, said: “The initial intention is to expand the business’ huge potential for growth by modernising its interiors and enhancing its produce range in response to customer demand, supporting local producers and providing a showcase for local arts and crafts.
“The business will retain the current staff, with the aim of creating further jobs, but in the first instance will need the support of a bank of volunteers.
“The bar-cafe would complete the community hub by offering a much-needed, welcoming and family-friendly focal point for the community, as currently Harbertonford lacks a café or pub.
“Subject to planning permission, refurbishment of the currently unused garage area of the shop would give the bar-café access through the shop during the day and separate access in the evening, opening up onto the picturesque village green and the River Harbourne.
“Initially the bar-café would serve simple, high-quality food using locally sourced, sustainably produced ingredients.
“The vision is to build on the bar-café over time, in consultation with and according to the demands of the community.”
Josephine continued: “Harbertonford and its neighbouring villages are proud to have a strong community spirit.
“Harbertonford came together in the past to produce a popular annual music festival, Fordstock.
“The biennial arts festival Harbertonford Open Studios remains a popular event, while just recently there was a summer open gardens.
“The community hub project will harness this local energy, talent and commitment and work with local organisations to bring benefit to the whole community and surrounding area.
“An initial resident consultation conducted in October 2019 clearly demonstrated a great deal of support for the project, as well as receiving unanimous support from the surrounding parish councils.”
The share offer is due to run until 25 July 2022 with an opportunity to buy shares from £20 apiece.
For more information visit www.harbertonford.com