Whitsome shop venture proves a great success

WHILE some companies are still struggling in the wake of the economic downturn, one of Berwickshire's newer businesses is celebrating a successful first year of trading.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:05 pm

Whitsome Village Shop, with it's home in Whitsome Ark, recently welcomed its 10,000th customer through its doors, quite an achievement for a small venture.

The Ark is also home to a hall and the village Post Office and one of the people who helped to get the whole venture off the ground, Ian Jarvie, said he was really pleased with how it had blossomed.

Ian is a member of Whitsome Village Hall Group, who worked tirelessly for a number of years to secure all the funding that was needed to turn their idea of the Ark, a new focal point for the village, into a reality.

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The 500,000 project was completed last year and the village shop, run purely by local volunteers, has been in business since October.

And it's most definitely a case of so far so good, with both villagers and visitors to Whitsome able to stock up on everyday goods such as eggs, bread and milk without having to face a trip to the supermarket.

Ian commented: "Although we've got nothing to compare it to everyone is really pleased with how the shop has done so far.

"I would say that its mainly been locals who have been through the doors so far but we've also picked up on some passing trade too.

"We have been guided by the expertise of sub postmaster Rod Thompson who works in the shop as well as manning the new Post Office counter."

The luxury of still having a Post Office up and running, is one that the people of Whitsome are very grateful for after seeing the communities of Eccles, Greenlaw and Hutton suffer the loss of theirs last year.

And although Ian said transferring the Post Office from its old premises to the Ark proved tricky, he said all the community's efforts were entirely worth it.

He continued: "We had to negotiate with various people to secure the transfer of the post office to the new shop and had to pay for a new telephone line but we managed to get away with closing for just one day before re-opening.

"This was down to a fortnight's intensive effort from the community with people building and putting up shelves and a local joiner helped to build the new post office counter.

"We wanted this to be very much a local project and we now stock local produce such as preserves from Thistlecockrigg. It would be nice to promote more local businesses and I'm pleased to report that even though the goods are often more expensive than they would be in supermarkets, they are selling well.

"There is only one return bus to Berwick a week so if people don't have their own transport it's not always easy for them to get to a big supermarket. And with that in mind we try to keep prices as low as we can."

The shop's success has spread through to the Ark's function hall which has also been busy since becoming available for public use last year.

The Ark has so far hosted a number of local events such as christening and wedding parties; committee meetings and other private functions.

Ian added: "We've got a nice, clean, warm hall here and it's often easier for people to have a party here than to try and organise one at their house.

"We've also had a number of commercial lets, such as businesses using the hall for staff training sessions.

"We don't charge very much rent for local people so letting the hall out for commercial use is a way to raise some revenue.

"The majority of people I've spoken to are delighted with the Ark but it will never pay for itself. Without the relevant funding from the lottery and Scottish Borders Council, the village wouldn't have been able to generate the money to pay for it."