When the privately run Village Shop and Post Office in Down Ampney announced in June 1997 that it was closing, the villagers sprung into action. Down Ampney Shop Society was established by the current Chairman (Sheila Bull) to ensure that the community would never again be reliant on a single privately run Village Shop. The Society is set up as an Industrial Provident Society to provide for the sustainability of the village by ring fencing future surpluses for social projects, and has over 100 members within the village.
The community shop was first established using an old construction site building acquired with help from the local MP and RMG, the company building the new A419 road. Funds were raised in the village and matched by a community grant from Cotswold District Council. Located near the Village Hall, the portacabin was transformed for shop use by enthusiastic villagers and opened for business on 20th May 1998. It amazed everyone by its Tardis-like ability to hold such a wide range of stock in such a small building but, as customer demand increased, the cramped accommodation signalled the need for larger premises.
The Post Office operated from the Village Hall until the fire there in August 2007 forced it to move. The Co-operative group, who own all the estate around the village, kindly agreed to allow the Post Office to run from one of their properties for a peppercorn rent until a new permanent home could be established.
Following tremendous fundraising efforts by villagers, supplemented with grants from the Rural Development Programme for England and the Village CORE programme (run by the Plunkett Foundation) as well as a loan from the Co-operative Loan Fund and funds from other sources, a remarkable £260,000 was raised to provide a permanent building, allowing the shop, the local post office and a café to be combined in a new purpose-built annex of the new Village Hall. A strong Parish Plan and a comprehensive business plan, based on successive year on year surpluses achieved by the Society, underwrote the whole project.
The new Shop opened in July 2010 and at once the portacabin, such a familiar sight in the village, was demolished. Our new home is four times the size of the old, and is an environmentally-sensitive building that includes solar and photovoltaic panels, light tubes, an air source heat pump and rainwater harvesting.
The Society and villagers are justly proud of the Shop being the oldest social enterprise of its kind in Gloucestershire. Our Shop is (and has always been) run entirely by volunteers drawn from local residents, with a management committee overseeing things, and its success is due to continued custom from residents and the effort and commitment of our volunteers.
Our customers are recognised as being our greatest asset for a sustainable future. We work hard to understand and provide what those customers need, and we can say with sincerity the facility is ‘Run by the Community for the Community’.