Our journey started back in October 2019 when villagers started talking about taking over the ‘Session Music’ shop that was being advertised for sale or rent in our village. The Parish Council decided to survey the village to see how its population viewed the need for a village shop. The robust results demonstrated a strong desire within our community to establish a shop.
In fact, the survey overwhelmingly showed villagers wanted a shop and cafe and most importantly make it the hub of our village, a place where people can come together.
A group of like-minded and passionate volunteers came together, and a Management Committee was formed and by February 2020 we had formed a Community Benefit Society, which is registered as a Limited Company. To impact the business efficiently and effectively, we focused upon making optimum use of our specific and individual areas of expertise which led to the formation of working groups. These working groups include; premises and location, funding and shares, products and services, communications, legal and finance, human resources, retail operations, overall business planning and events.
What will our shop look like, where will it be?
We quickly realised that the Session Music premises would not be affordable, so a team of local architects and building experts volunteered to start looking at building economical, and secure premises, to be built sympathetically, whilst considering the environment surrounding the planned site. Two sites were considered – at Manor Fruit Farm and next to the car park off Hunts Hill Road. There are a number of critical success factors to take into account; the shop must be accessible to everyone, the availability of plenty of car parking and we must look after our local wildlife, our aim is to enhance the area, blending in: planting trees and creating swathes of wildflowers.
We wanted to find a central point of the village so that people will be able people to walk to the shop, or drive if further afield and be able to park.
After many consultations with architects, building experts, the Parish Council and Guildford Borough Planning, we identified a preferred site, an area on Manor Fruit Farm, settling between The Village Hall and the Therapy Garden, which has other clubs and facilities nearby.
A set of plans were drawn up and submitted after seeking pre-planning advice from Guildford BC’s Planning Department, and we are pleased to say our detailed plans have now been approved so it’s just a case of raising the funding and building and setting up the shop and cafe.
Our work is progressing in all areas and we have now prepared a full business plan which will enable us to share our business case with investors, grant funders and most importantly our community benefit shareholders. It gives clear and detailed information on all areas of the project and a downloadable copy will be available very soon from this website.
For clarity and to highlight its importance, an entire page has been created on this website covering how we plan to raise funds to enable the building and opening of the shop and cafe.
So our story continues….
The area that gets us all incredibly excited is ‘what will be inside our store’ – lining the shelves and filling the baskets, which of the many suggested services will be on offer and which of our countless favourite cakes will be lovingly and locally baked, decorated and prepared for sale ready to be devoured with a refreshing cup of tea or aromatic coffee in our cafe?
To ensure we offer a great experience and meet the needs of those expressed locally; we have a team of people reviewing the outcomes of the village survey and aligning this with the research we are carrying out in terms of the offerings made by other village shops.
The ultimate aim is to sell local produce alongside everyday items to cater for household day to day needs along with odd and all-important treat! Once the shop and cafe are established, we will encourage its organic growth, always testing the water and ensuring our offerings are with the best interests of the community at heart:
Our current list includes:
- Fresh: Fruit and Vegetables, (working with The Therapy Garden, among others)
- Chilled: Fresh meat, dairy, cured meats, processed meats, pastries, cold drinks
- Ambient: Bakery, oils and dressings, sauces, herbs and rubs, beers and wines, flour, sugar, cereals, coffee and tea, jams and pickles, confectionary, household cleaning items
- Frozen: Ready meals, desserts, free flow vegetables, fish, free flow pastries, ice−creams
- Daily purchases: milk, eggs, emergency cleaning products, toiletries, pet food, newspapers, lottery tickets, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages
- Post office: standard postal services
- Cafe: Fresh bean-to-cup coffee, teas, hot chocolate, sweet pastries, tray bakes, homemade cakes, sandwiches. Once the cafe has been established light lunches such as quiches, ploughman lunches, jacket potatoes to be added.
- Local crafts: greeting cards, gifts, paintings, pottery
- Local produce: Honey, Hunts Hill Farm selection of meat, Hogs Back Brewery, egg producers, Greyfriars Vineyard.
Sharing our news….
Communication is paramount and key to success, with this in mind, we have started to reach out through social media – Facebook, Nextdoor Neighbourhood, Instagram – as well as displaying posters around the village. The launch of our website is another great milestone for celebration!
As part of a Community Benefit Society, regular community forum meetings will be resuming as soon as possible. Our first meeting was in December 2019, then our March meeting was postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. These forum meetings give everyone the opportunity to give us feedback and for us to share updates face to face. They will offer the Management Committee the opportunity to get to know more villagers and for villagers to start to become more involved in the various work groups and overall project.
This global episode has affected all of us in many and varied ways and has changed how many of us live. It has shown us the importance of community and how we can and have pulled together, supporting each other and those in our community. We fully intend to continue to move forwards (we have become expert at using Zoom and other virtual means of communication!) and know the best way of communicating our plans and aspirations is to speak with and meet people.
Although the past few months have been rather challenging, and several events planned for the spring and summer were sadly cancelled, we are not easily deterred and remain steadfast and focused on our main aims. We have a dedicated page on the website detailing the types of events we have planned and how you can volunteer and take part in the fundraising.
We invite you to browse this site and find out more.
As a village we have seen great passion and care, supporting other villagers and the NHS through the past 3 months of lockdown.
As a group of villagers ourselves, we feel it would be great to nurture this caring, sharing spirit and, as a community, encourage its continuation now and into the future. We believe old fashioned values are becoming the ‘new norm’ and the village shop and cafe is the epitome of this, especially in a rural environment such as ours.
Our goal is to open the doors of The Normandy Shop & Cafe early Autumn 2021. As our story continues and our plans begin to transpire and our dedicated team flourishes, we look forward to meeting many of you over the coming days, weeks and months.
Bob, Gary, Jan, Karen, Jill, Pat, Bryony, Paul and Neil.