Canterton Stores in Preston Candover was for many years the only village shop in the valley. Rob and Jane Marks bought the shop along with their house in 2009 and worked hard to keep it open at some financial cost to them. In 2013 they made the difficult decision to inform the community that the shop was no longer viable and that they would be closing it. Appreciating its value as an asset to the area, Rob and Jane very kindly agreed to keep the shop open if it could be established that there was interest in setting up a community run store.
To this end, in 2013 Preston Candover Parish Council distributed a survey to valley households to establish whether the community would make use of such an outlet. Six hundred questionnaires were sent out and nearly two hundred replied which is a satisfactory return, giving confidence to the data. The results of this survey were presented at a public meeting and showed that 56% of residents felt it was extremely important for the valley to have a shop and that 32% would use it on a weekly basis with a further 35% stating they would use it occasionally. Several more meetings followed including a useful and inspiring meeting with the Plunkett Foundation* (www.plunkett.co.uk) at which 9 people got serious and formed a committee to take things further.
Committee members Bob Wood (Chairman), Clare Armstrong, Jane Ballard, Carolyn Dawnay, Alison Ellett, Sarah Saunders, Denise Waite (joint Treasurer), Claire Willmott and Nevil Wilson (joint Treasurer) met for the first time in January 2014 with the hope of taking this exciting project forward to become a reality. (Please see the About us page for an up to date list of members of the committee.)
After that, several members went on a study tour visiting three community stores (Milland, Kirdford and Lodworth). Seeing the community stores in action was hugely motivating with headline figures to encourage all that this is a worthwhile venture.
In July 2014, the committee presented its vision for the Candover Valley Community Store to members of the Valley’s Parish Councils and was hugely encouraged by the support and enthusiasm they showed. The business plan was also reviewed by the Plunkett Foundation* and a member of the Cooperative Bank and we are pleased to say they didn’t have much use for their red pens.
In September 2015, a public exhibition was held to present the plans for the store to the residents of the parish and the wider community.
Following the public exhibition in 2015 the trustees of the village hall in Preston Candover offered the opportunity to house the new store in an extension of the village hall. The committee considered this in detail and accepted the offer. Plans and detailed costings for the extension were then drawn up but it became apparent that the costs involved in extending the village hall were escalating for both the CVCS committee and the village hall trustees, and the complications of building an extension to the village hall were too great to make the plan workable.
In January 2018 it was agreed that a stand-alone store could be sited alongside the village hall, on Preston Farm’s land and about 15 metres to the north of the hall.
Lord Sainsbury agreed to lease the necessary land and the village hall agreed to share the car park for customer parking and to allow pedestrian access to the new store.
During the summer and autumn of 2018 the Committee applied for grants from various funding bodies, and local residents subscribed to a share offer scheme, becoming members of the society. We are most grateful to the 250 individuals who demonstrated commitment to the project by purchasing shares.
Having reached our funding target, building work started in November 2018 and progressed remarkably smoothly, to the point where CPFM Construction handed over the completed building to the committee in mid April 2019.
During the construction process, many set-up activities took place with a successful recruitment campaign leading to the appointment of our manager (Garry Green) and assistant manager (Emma Simpson) who both started their employment in April. Volunteers were then sought and given some basic training in age restricted sales, manual handling and emergency procedures ready for when the store opened. The committee are most grateful to Jane and Rob Marks for allowing some volunteers to gain experience of post office and counter work in Canterton Stores.
During the construction phase, time was spent researching and costing the fit out of the store and coffee area, selecting fridges, freezers, tables, chairs, shelving, display crates and ePOS system. Appropriate insurance cover was taken out and alcohol licences applied for.
After the handover of the store at the end of April, a stalwart band of volunteers then continued the fit out of the store, painting, decorating and plumbing, installing refrigeration equipment, coffee machines, slatwall shelving and customizing the artisan shelving.
The committee was also in negotiation with the Post Office from November 2018 to replace the old post office in Canterton Stores (which was set to close as the new store opened) with a new post office ‘local’ as part of the new store.
After a hectic period of fitting out and stocking in late May, installation of the equipment and training by the post office in the first week of June, the store opened for trading on Monday 10 June and the post office opened on Tuesday 11 June.
* The Plunkett Foundation is a national organisation supporting the development of community shops. It has over 300 community shops in its network so has plenty of experience to offer.