IN 2009, the nearest shop for people in Ewelme was two miles away and the village had no common sense of purpose.

The village comprised various disparate groups – school children, teenagers, working parents, retirees, multiple clubs and almshouse residents.

We aspired to set up a self-financing, sustainable community business, which would help to create a true focal point for the village.

In the eight years since we opened, the shop really has become the social hub of the village for all ages, but in particular for our older residents.

We estimate that at least 70 per cent of our customers are above the age of 65 and we’re able to meet their basic daily shopping needs as well as regular social interaction.

Our free delivery service helps those without access to a car, which is especially important since the local bus service was withdrawn.

Ewelme Village Store is a not-for-profit community initiative, run and operated by daily managers and local volunteers.

Our staffing structure encompasses a wide age range, with three part-time teenagers at weekends, six daily managers, and 25 volunteers who range in age from 18 to 80.

Any profits made are either re-invested in the store or the local community.

We support the business course at a local college and invite Duke of Edinburgh students to help us manage our stocktaking for the service element of the award.

From a wider community perspective, we provide a monthly customer update by email, advertise and sell tickets for village events and recently hosted a weekly surgery to help villagers understand/ complete the neighbourhood plan survey.

Our local Police Community Support Officer holds a regular surgery in the shop and we frequently reunite lost wallets, keys and dogs with their rightful owners, as well as alerting relatives to potential problems with elderly relatives.

We are also focussed on social interaction, with a wine tasting club, monthly cream teas and a Christmas open evening with carol singing led by village school children.

As well as our tea room (where most of the real business of Ewelme takes place!), we also offer a buffet service for small meetings.

The shop is well-valued within the community, evidenced by the ongoing support of a wide range of villagers and local societies and businesses.

We’ve received donations from individuals, the village Elm Club and the Ewelme Trust and our share register currently stands at 389 members.

In reaching out to such a wide range of individuals within the community, the shop benefits from a wealth of experience and diverse contacts, not least on the voluntary management committee which comprises eight local residents.

Our daily managers are ably supported by our trained volunteers and a number of our employees have worked in the store prior to transitioning back to full time work.

Without exception our volunteers have formed strong working relationships and are proud to be a part of our village enterprise.

They enjoy the social aspects of working in the shop and we provide an annual volunteer social and training evening.

They’ve embraced the use of IT and our till system, despite some of them having previously very limited experience in this area.

We are continually striving for new ideas to keep the shop fresh and encourage new customers.

A big achievement last year was the conversion of our cloakroom into a customer toilet.

That made us more accessible to older customers, but also enabled us to attract other customers such as cyclists and walkers.

We’ve introduced the use of a pump and inner tubes for our cyclists which is receiving some very positive feedback.

Other recent initiatives include enhancing our local product range with a range of gins from our local micro-brewery and frozen homemade soups made in store.

We take on board feedback from the local community and planning a monthly How to use your PC session in the shop following a suggestion from one of the village Almshouse residents.

Our range of products, tea room, buffet service, delivery service and staffing structure means that we have truly become a focal point for the village, bringing together a number of previously disparate groups, particularly supporting our older residents.

We have achieved our original objective, but there is no room for complacency.

With the enormous support we receive from our team of volunteers and managers, and careful management by the committee, we look forward to the challenges and opportunities that the future brings.

With Ewelme Village Store at the heart of our community, there is something for everyone.