Southern Co-op marks 150 years since its first community store

A commemorative plaque was presented to local charity Enable Ability, near the co-op’s original Portsmouth store

Southern Co-operative has this week celebrated 150 years since the opening of its first community store in Portsmouth.

Employees from across the organisation gathered on Monday to present a commemorative plaque to Enable Ability, which runs a community centre near Southern’s original Charles Street store.

Enable Ability is a charity that works with disabled people to achieve their full potential through work experience, volunteering and social enterprise.

CO-op chair Mark Ralf said: “It’s an honour for me to mark such a historical occasion. Southern Co-op’s founders set out to benefit the whole community, and community is still at the forefront of our work.

“Our support for Enable Ability is an example of this, which our retail and funeralcare colleagues have been actively involved with for a number of years. So it’s incredibly fitting that they can be part of these celebrations.”

Over the past year, Southern has supported Enable Ability and its Landport Community Centre with donations to its community larder, including gift cards for its users.

Southern’s director of corporate affairs, Silena Dominy, who has worked at the society for 33 years, said: “From the very start, our co-operative put people’s best interests at its heart by creating a system where profits are put back into the communities we serve – whether through jobs, community activities, or education.

“Southern Co-op is proud to be a part of Portsmouth’s history and is grateful to the Landport Community Centre for helping us to mark this momentous anniversary.”

The member-owned retailer was originally established as Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society in 1873, and now runs almost 400 food, funeral, franchise, burial grounds, crematoria and Starbucks coffee branches as well as a food and drink range from local producers, employing around 4,500 people.

It has donated more than £12m to local good causes across the south over the last decade, and was presented with the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and Sustainable Development last year.