Article supplied by Michael Pearson (chair of Barham Community shop group).
In 1908 Barham, a medium sized village in the lovely Elham Valley, south of Canterbury boasted seven shops of one sort or another. A hundred years later in 2008 the last of these, a convenience store with a fully operational post office, closed for good.
Despondency descended on the village at the loss of such an important amenity but as so often in times of crisis the residents rallied round. The Nailbourne Community Store Association was formed with over 200 shareholders buying £10 shares and many added to this with further donations and long term loans. Further funding was obtained from Kent County Council and others and it was decided to buy a portacabin aka shipping container to house the post office and a shop just large enough to provide some of the everyday essentials. A tenant was identified and given a 5 year lease.
However this was always seen as a temporary measure and in the meantime plans to rebuild the Barham village hall were put in place and within that rebuild there was to be a ne purpose built shop. A bid for over half a million pounds was submitted to the Lottery Fund and was ultimately approved in 2014.
By this time a new committee has been elected to run the community association the founders’ work having been well and truly done. The task of this new group was to decide how the next phase could best be conceived. There followed a good deal of exhaustive research including a village survey and several visits to other community shops. The decision was made to create a true community shop run by a salaried manage and volunteers.
The community assumed responsibility for the shop on April 7th 2016 in the existing portacabin, just enough time to get to grips with the day to day running of the shop before the move to the new, much larger premises scheduled for July 2016. The tasks facing the group were enormous, moving the existing retail stock, adding new deliveries which trebled the lines theywere carrying, putting all the stock on to the new EPOS system and in the middle of all this painting all the shelving, gondolas and anything which didn’t move. They managed with a lot of help from their friends (an army of 50 volunteers) to open on time and the overall reaction was “WOW”. Of course there were hiccoughs. The new till has taken some mastering; the old one they inherited didn’t work so mistakes had no real effect, but the new one did however get its electronic knickers in a twist when a box of eggs and a copy of the parish mag were rung up at £23,000.
The official opening day, a village party with a barbecue, some tastings of wines, cheeses, and local produce to the accompaniment of a steel band. The shop is getting busier and busier, the atmosphere is good, the to do list has been consigned to history, the customers are tolerant and forgiving in the extreme and the army of volunteers are just too wonderful for words. They even say it’s fun!