THE 700 villagers of Middleton Tyas, near Richmond, in North Yorkshire had not been without a shop and post office for 100 years.
So when theirs closed last year they held an emergency meeting, formed an `action group` to find a solution, and decided to run it themselves as a co-operative.
Now the 450 sq. ft. shop and post office is reopening for business in the village hall, on Friday the 13th of August, with a local staff of three part-time managers and a team of unpaid volunteers.
The new Community Co-operative, registered under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act, will be owned and operated by the villagers themselves, helped by the Co-operative Action loan fund.
The £ 43,000 loan is mostly short-term pending the release of a Defra grant towards the £ 72,000 set-up costs.
`The whole problem was tailor-made for a co-operative solution,` says Sarah Lees of Co-operative Action ? which supports the development of new co-operative projects. `This is a village owning and running its own business for the benefit of the community. It doesn't get much more co-operative than that.`
The trustees of the village Memorial Hall offered a 10-year lease to run the general store, newsagent and off license shop from there, and a small building next door is the new Post Office.
Newspaper sales top £ 1,000 a month and, says Alan Siddall, Director and Treasurer of the Community Co-operative: `Our long-term objective is to build a stable, self-supporting business for the long-term benefit of the community and, at the same time, offer financial support to the running of the Memorial Hall.
`The business will be accessible to all villagers and offer a good range of locally produced foods with high personal service at competitive rates.
`The co-operative structure was felt to be most suitable for a social enterprise which is owned and controlled by the local community and which exists to benefit that community.`
The nearest village store and post office is about three miles away and a supermarket is an eight mile journey ? so the new store is well placed to serve a village where more than half the residents are aged over 50.
But the business will also be catering for the 120 pupils at a school only 500 yards away and a nearby caravan site just a mile down the road.