For at least two generations the Singleton family ran the village shop, known formally as Barford News and Post Office, until Kay and Terry Cunningham retired and sold the property. The new owner promised he would ensure that it would continue to be run as a shop. He had no intention of running it himself as he was an Estate Agent. He offered the property at a rental figure well above a viable pricer for such a small business. So Barford was without a village shop or Post Office for many months.
We immediately gave up walking around the village, didn`t meet friends collecting papers or buying milk, our children had nowhere to spend their pocket money and we had a 6 mile round trip to buy forgotten groceries. The shop closed for 6 months and then opened by a tenant who lived outside the village, so opening hours were limited and stock range restricted.
The shop closed for a final time in February 2006.
At that time there was a general move to close small Post Offices so the villagers were concerned that they would lose it forever. It was discovered that there was a time limit by which it had to be to re-opened. So two villagers investigated how it could be re-opened in an existing space. The back ‘changing room’ in the Memorial Hall was found to be suitable as far as the Post Office was concerned – with a lot of modification. So the Post Office re-opened – with the help of a few valiant volunteers – but only for a few hours each week.
As time went on there was a great build up of concern about the absence of a village shop. The Chair of the JPC and of the Parish Meeting believed that it should not be the role or the responsibility of either organisation to run such a project.
An open village meeting was held in May 2006 attended by more than 20 villagers, some of whom were prepared to take action. There was a unanimous vote to create a new village shop and the Barford Village Shop Action Group was formed. We had to look for possible locations, which services and stock to supply and how we could fund the initiative. Meanwhile, the JPC had also become involved, and did a lot of work which resulted in the sub Post Office operating 3 afternoons a week in the Memorial Hall starting in November 2006.
Barford Village Shop CIC was formed as a legal entity to control the shop during set up and future running. Shares were sold at £20, restricted to one per person. The original 3 members of the Action Group were joined by 2 others and formed the board, each bringing various skills and to help spread the workload. They were assisted by many villagers who helped out in all manner of ways and without whom the shop would not be what it is today.
By December 2006 we had
- Decided to run a community shop following a ViRSA model
- Identified a site and prepared a planning application
- Carried out a village survey of what stock and services the shop should have
- Held our first fundraising event
- Applied for our first grant
2007 was spent fundraising, completing grant applications and encouraging villagers to give donations and loans
The Barford Charity was set up to assist in fundraising as well as to act as a vehicle for distributing profits in later years.
Planning permission was granted in February 2007 for an extension to the Memorial Hall in Church Street. Detailed architectural drawings were produced with tenders being invited from local builders.
Meanwhile work was underway on the shop layout and range planning with potential suppliers being identified, many of them local.
We also had to negotiate the release of a covenant on the village green, apply for the required licence agreements, negotiate the move of the Post Office, investigate heating, cooling and till systems and stock management, banking arrangements, lighting, flooring and planning the operational side of the shop and what we wanted to achieve for the community. We had to create documents to fulfil our legal requirements – risk assessment, COSSH, Health and safety, as well as Staff Manuals and volunteer rotas.
The tender was finally allocated in January 2008 with the Sod Cutting ceremony taking place in February. The build started and swiftly completed within budget and on schedule with the keys being handed over to the village on 2nd August 2008.
The internal fit out then began. Volunteers painted the internal walls, washed and fitted the shelving, installed the electrics plus 1001 other finishing tasks before the stock was finally placed on the shelves ready for opening.
The shop was officially opened by the whole village on Saturday 1st November 2008.
There are now over 530 shareholders. We have a paid Full time manager. There are over 80 volunteers covering 4 shifts a day, 2 on each shift. The Post Office opens 5 afternoons a week.
The internet café provides free internet access, teas and coffees at a reasonable price, providing a social hub for the village, young and old.
We have now paid back all our loans and we believe the shop has a sound financial future. The village is very proud of its shop and we still strive hard to maintain the high standards achieved to ensure that it is here for a very long time to come, becoming another important part of Barford`s heritage.