Celebrations as villagers mark launch of new community-run shop

(L-R) Helen Boothman, chair of management committee, Emerald OHanrahan, from BBC Radio 4s The Archer

(L-R) Helen Boothman, chair of management committee, Emerald OHanrahan, from BBC Radio 4s The Archers, Michael Draper, Jonathan McGee, committee member, and Amanda Orchard. - Credit: Archant

A campaign backed by hundreds of people to save Houghton and Wyton’s last shop and post office has welcomed the official launch of its community store.

The shop could have been lost after David and Margaret Ebdale, who ran the business for 18 years, decided to retire and planned to sell Ye Olde Village Shoppe and post office, in The Green, last year.

But on May 6 residents turned out in force to celebrate the opening of the Houghton and Wyton Community Shop, after running a successful campaign to buy it.

Amanda Orchard, vice-chair of management committee, said: “Securing the amenity is just so vital particularly for people that can’t get out.

“It is not just a grocer or a post office, it sells tickets and advertises local events. It will support a lot of different projects – if we had lost it we would have lost a social hub of the village.”

As a part of the handover of the shop, Mr and Mrs Ebdale were handed a portrait of the shop, painted by local artist Amanda Cauldwell.

“It was a nice event marking their tenure coming to an end,” added Mrs Orchard.

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The shop was listed as a community asset in December 2015 which allowed the residents a chance to buy the shop before it was listed for sale on the open market.

To buy the shop the group raised £340,000 in pledges from members of the village and a further £300,000 following a grant awarded to the steering group by the Big Lottery Fund.

“It is an absolutely amazing, just an unbelievable total for a relatively small village like ourselves,” Mrs Orchard said.

“They [the residents] have absolutely put their money where their mouths are.”

More than 300 people pledged funds to help keep the shop open after village meetings were held to give residents the chance to find out about the campaign’s progress.

The shop will now be run by full-time manager, Michael Draper, as well as three part-time members of staff.

Along with paid staff around 40 volunteers from the community have come forward to take on various jobs and help man the shop.