Transforming a Village with People Power
Nearly a decade ago the people of Fittleworth, near Petworth, lost their village shop. But they missed it so much that five years later they launched an ambitious plan to build another.
The whole community united to raise £400,000 to create not just a shop, but a community hub, café and children’s playground.
Fittleworth Stores, which opened in 2018, is now a thriving small business, attracting enough trade to put it into the UK’s top 4% of community shops by turnover. Last year it was able to add a new post office, along with an annual grant of £5,000 in recognition of the role it plays in the local community.
The shop has also created a successful outlet for other local businesses. It stocks a wide range of local produce from more than 40 Sussex based suppliers. This includes everything from meat and veg to jams, coffee, biscuits, gifts, crafts and beauty products. The milk it sells is from Southview Farm dairy, which is one of the last Sussex dairy farms to produce milk from its own herd.
But Fittleworth Stores is not just a small business:
‘Our village has transformed as a result of having a shop at the heart of our community,’ says one local resident. ‘We have reduced social isolation and have created a vehicle which enables villagers to look after and take care of those who are vulnerable or just in need of a chat.’
‘The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated how we are a true lifeline for our local community. We launched a home delivery service to those who are elderly or self-isolating and a click and collect service available to all. Our use of small local independent producers means our shelves have remained well-stocked in comparison to those in the major supermarkets.’
The village’s strong community spirit also enabled them to quickly raise new funds for a Food Angel scheme to help those in most need.