Rachel Hicks on Managing the Bromsberrow Community Shop

In May this year I sold ‘Just Rachel’ the ice cream and dessert business that I started 27 years ago. In July I started work as part-time manager of the community shop at Bromsberrow Heath. I hadn’t been intending to find a job so soon – I had meant to take some time for me – but The Shop was looking for a manager and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

BromsberrowShop-3There has been a shop at Bromsberrow Heath since the middle of the nineteenth century. The most recent owners of the village shop, who ran the post office from the same premises, wanted to retire so put the business on the market in 2008. After five years they had failed to find a buyer so decided that they had no option but to shut the shop down. Faced with losing their local shop, a group of villagers got together to establish a community shop which opened for business last November. Over the past ten months a team of volunteers has achieved a tremendous amount, starting up and running a shop that is open seven days a week, which offers daily papers, freshly baked bread, a range of grocery staples, fresh fruit and vegetables and a coffee shop.

BromsberrowShop-1The community shop is a large premises – a fact that is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It is wonderful having so much space because we have room for a large café area at the back of the shop and will shortly be doing sandwiches and baguettes in addition to the tea, coffee and cake that we offer at the moment. It is a curse because in the winter it will be difficult, and expensive, to heat.

At the moment we offer some local food such as cider made on the Bromsberrow Estate, free-range eggs from Dymock, French bread baked by Fabrice in the unit next door, milk from Bartonsham Dairies in Hereford and, oh yes, ice cream from Just Rachel at Eggs Tump! Our most locally sourced produce is some of the fruit and vegetables that we sell – grown by villagers and donated to the shop.

However it can be argued that everything we sell is local food, because it is local to the customers who buy it. A local shop means that villagers do not have to travel the six miles into Ledbury to do their shopping, saving them money and time, and the shop is vital to those who are unable to get into Ledbury. Rather than the customers going to the products, the products are brought to the customers, into the centre of their community. And The Shop at Bromsberrow is very much a community hub – the volunteers know the customers and greet them by name; news (or should that be gossip!) is exchanged; the elderly and less able are looked out for – this is all part of the service that the shop offers.

And my role in all this? I’ve been brought in to get the shop running more efficiently and profitably. The Shop is staffed by a team of volunteers, so any messages have to be communicated to a good number of people, rather than just to one or two staff members, so part of my job is to ensure everyone knows what to do and how to do it. Local produce is one area in which small shops have the edge over the supermarkets so I will be increasing the range of locally produced items that we are selling. A computer club, giving lessons in computer use, is starting in October and I have plans for other groups, such as a young mum’s coffee morning, to bring more people into The Shop.

BromsberrowShop-2The team who runs The Shop is full of enthusiasm and ideas – over the next couple of months we have a Macmillan Coffee Morning (4th October), a celebration of Chocolate Week (18th Oct), a Christmas Table-Top Sale (6th December) and a Christmas Choir evening (late December) planned.

Why not pay us a visit, see what we have to offer and pause a while in the coffee shop? We always need more volunteers, so if your visit inspires you to join our team, we will welcome you with open arms. But even if you don’t join us, we will be delighted to see you.

Webmaster’s note: The Bromsberrow Community Shop is well signed and very accessible: turn left off the A417 when travelling north towards Ledbury, just past the M50 junction.

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