Thorncombe Village Shop occupies premises which were purpose-built in the 1960’s, to provide a retail outlet with accommodation above. The shop was privately owned and run, by a number of owners, from construction until 2009.
In 2006, the then owner decided to retire and so placed the property on the market for sale as a going concern.
After some months it became obvious that little interest had been shown on the open market and this raised questions as to the future of the business. Concerns were raised within the Parish Council, that the owner might choose to opt for a change of use , thus leaving the Village of Thorncombe with no shop for essentials.
A then member of the Parish Council was tasked with investigating ways in which the Village might continue to benefit from the facility of a shop.
From the community, was drawn a group of individuals with skills in areas relating to Finance, Corporate Law, IT, Business Planning and Retail. The resultant Steering Group embarked on costings and the sourcing of finance, with the Parish Council receiving monthly reports on progress.
The structure of the project, should it succeed, was to be that of an Industrial and Provident Society (defined as – an organisation which conducts business or trade either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community)
It was discovered that the charitable organisation (www.plunkett.co.uk) would match any money raised from the community to a maximum of £20,000, with a grant plus an equal amount in the form of a loan.
A Public meeting, the first of two, endorsed the actions of the Steering Group. Subsequently, a sum of £20,294 was raised, with individual contributors receiving a single voting share for the minimum contribution of £5, but still only having one share if contributing more than the minimum.
Having secured £60,000, with more grant funding sourced through an initiative, known then as Chalk and Cheese, an approach was made to the shop owner. In the meantime, the Steering Group member with retail experience and who was also the District Councillor approached West Dorset District Council (WDDC) with a view to securing a loan from the Council.
The business plan we had produced made it obvious, however, that the Thorncombe Village Shop Association (TVSA) could not afford to take on the debt for the value of the whole property. And so, negotiations were joined with the shop owner asking him to consider if TVSA might purchase just the shop area, leaving him with the accommodation, on the basis that the two parts might be worth more than the whole. Taking a leap of faith he agreed to consider the plan, with TVSA shouldering the cost of the physical division of the property.
Over the following months, much more work was carried out on the detail, especially following the confirmation of the availability of a loan from WDDC. This loan was to be specifically to the Parish Council, enabling WDDC to protect their investment by having the facility for the Parish Council to raise the Parish Precept to service the loan, should the shop fail. TVSA, for its part would be leased the premises for an annual rent commensurate with the loan repayment level required.
All the threads were pulled together, with the final stage being a democratic ballot of the residents of Thorncombe Parish and which resulted in 88% of those casting a vote being in favour of keeping the shop open as a community run project and accepting the increase in Precept which would result from failure.
At the end of all the work undertaken, Thorncombe Parish Council became the holders of the Freehold of the Property and the owners, on behalf of the Community, of the shop premises.
This then allowed the shop to be refurbished and turned into what you see now. Our shop front, which doubles as our logo and which is much admired as far away as the USA, was designed by an ex design director of John Lewis. Most of the non-structural work was carried out by volunteers, including the construction of all the wonderful wooden shelving which provides the welcoming ambience on entering the shop.
Finally, on 17th October 2009 we opened for business, and with the exception of Christmas Days, New Year’s Days and Good Fridays, we have been serving the Community and visitors alike ever since.
As an aside, the last owner did eventually sell the accommodation and proved our assertion correct.
If you want to know about the shop’s future, then please read about
our vision and ambition.