HUMSHAUGH VILLAGE SHOP, NORTHUMBERLAND
THREE years ago, villagers in Humshaugh, near Hexham, clubbed together to save their last village shop from closure.
A question mark hung over the future of the village store after a determined local campaign failed to save its post office counter.
Owners Pat and Rob Gray were looking to retire but there were widespread fears that the store would close too – leaving villagers facing a six-mile trip to do their shopping.
When no buyers came forward a committee of volunteers was formed called Humshaugh Community Ventures, who campaigned for money from various funding organisations.
The spirited campaign successfully raised £35,000 and on November 1 2009 the village shop was opened by volunteers for the first time.
In May and June the following year, the shop moved to the back room of Humshaugh's local pub, The Crown Inn, while the store underwent a major re-fit.
It re-opened in June and was officially unveiled on August 7 by multi-millionaire businessman, Graham Wylie, who until November 2010 lived at nearby Chesters.
More than 40 volunteers have since been recruited and trained to run the shop on a daily basis. Last year, the shop generated more than £15,000 in profits, which has been used to fund other projects in the village.
Humshaugh Community Ventures also stepped in to save the village's Crown Inn pub from possible closure, taking over and running the business while a long-term buyer was found.
Director of Humshaugh Community Ventures, Steve Robins, said: “The profits from the shop have been ploughed into a variety of projects in the village. We also started a heating oil price guide service, which rapidly developed into a village oil-buying consortium. There's now talk of a village electric car, a community orchard as well as village beehives.
"Everyone involved will tell you that it can be hard work but they'll also tell you that it's very enjoyable and gives you a nice, warm glow.
"Ours isn't a traditional business model but it works very well for us and will almost certainly work for other North East communities too."
For the second year, the shop has won the regional champions title for Best Village Shop/Post Office – in the prestigious Countryside Alliance awards and was only narrowly pipped at the post for the top national award by Ludwell Post Office stores in Dorset. There are also plans for a community orchard and in the long term, the shop could move to larger premises.