Spotlight on: Llanmadoc Community Shop
Throughout Co-operatives Fortnight 19 June – 3 July, several co-operatives in Wales will be featured on the Radio Wales Jamie and Louise Show 9am to midday. We will also be telling their stories, and others, here on our blog.
Llanmadoc Community Shop
Saving the only shop in the village
When the Post Office decided to shut its branch in the small village of Llanmadoc the villagers knew they were losing an essential part of their community.
So, as the axe fell they got together to reopen the shop themselves. Three years on, it is a thriving business and an example to other rural communities facing a closure of services.
“The shop had been part of the community for over 100 years,” said Randolph Jenkins, a former audit manager with Welsh Water. “I have lived in the village most of my life and I’ve seen it go down from three or four shops to one. I felt we – as a community – could do better than this and that, given the lead, people would pull together. And that’s been proved to be the case.”
On hearing of the closure the villagers held a series of meetings to discuss re-opening the post office as a co-operative, and raised around £6,000 by becoming shareholders in the venture. “The take-up must have been about 98 per cent of the 250-or-so people in the village,” said Mr Jenkins.
With the support of the Wales Co-operative Centre, they obtained grant funding from the Post Office and the Welsh Assembly Government, and bought stock and equipment. Then, when plans to reopen in the same premises as the old shop had to be shelved, Mr Jenkins offered the use of a large barn at his home and charged a peppercorn rent.
In January 2007, a village shop, run by the village itself, reopened. “We reopened the shop first and subsequently when we got all the technical details, the computer, etc, we opened the post office,” said Mr Jenkins, who became shop manager and deputy sub-postmaster for the village on the Gower peninsula near Swansea.
The shop, which is run entirely by volunteers, is open weekdays and Saturday morning, and features a post office, fresh and tinned groceries, an off-licence and a cafe/coffee shop area which has become a meeting place for the community. Meat is sourced locally from a butcher in Penclawdd, and there is plenty of Gower produce on sale, including fresh vegetables, cockles and laverbread.
“We’ve probably got around 40 people who do various tasks in the shop, such as serving, cleaning, pricing. We have a home baking group which bakes cakes for the shop. All the maintenance is done by volunteers too.
“People take responsibility in this sort of community venture. People order stock; one chap orders dairy products, another orders organic and Fair Trade, so when you give people responsibility they come into their own. We all join in.”
Last year the shop had a surplus of £15,000 and the co-operative is hoping to do even better this year. All the profit is ploughed back into the community which is currently raising money for a permanent premises.
But its value to the community has been much more than the figures on the bottom line. “The shop and post office is a real focal point of a community,” said Mr Jenkins. “Our shop is fantastic. People drop in for a cup of tea. We have an information board where people can find out what’s going on in the village. It’s a great place for the senior citizens, quite a few of whom actually work in the shop. It’s been incredibly successful not only as a business but as a community place. It is really inspiring. I’ve heard people say it’s been a lifeline.”
The new post-master at Llanmadoc is John Wheeler, a retired land surveyor. “I was volunteered for the post-master position, well I half-volunteered,” he said. “But I find it hugely enjoyable.”
“The shop is a social centre. When the snows came earlier this year, it was quite interesting that a lot of villagers were coming to the shop for a coffee. It’s the place to go when there’s something happening, something out of the ordinary.”
Mr Wheeler said that starting off they were grateful for the considerable help from the Welsh Assembly Government and the Wales Co-operative Centre, and that they would never have got off the ground without the premises offered by Randolph Jenkins.
For more information about Co-operatives Fortnight throughout the fortnight, follow us on Twitter @WalesCoOpCentre