The Shop History

Three locations - One Postcode!

In January 2019 Frensham Village Shop celebrated its 23rd Anniversary as a Community-run shop!

Early Days

In 1995 the last owners of a commercial village shop and Post Office (operating from premises almost opposite the current shop) decided to close down.
An emergency meeting of villagers from Frensham and Dockenfield was called by the Chairman of the Parish Council, Mike Millerchip, to discuss setting up a Community Shop. Approximately 70 people turned out on a snowy December evening to hear how other villages had kept their shops alive, and enough people were willing to join a committee to take it further. With only 3 weeks to the existing shop’s closure, committee members went around the two villages knocking on doors, and £20k was raised in the form of Loan Bonds.
Thanks to the generosity of Mr & Mrs Heath we were able to set up shop almost next door to the one that was closing in what used to be the village butcher’s shop.
A team of volunteers worked tirelessly to clad the tiled walls and fit shelving so as to able to open with the minimum of delay in January 1996. A small 'fortress style' Post Office was installed at the rear of the shop and a cellar below the shop (accessed by a trapdoor and rickety stairs) provided the main storage space. From 1996 until the end of 2007 the local community was served from this small, friendly shop.

The 'cabin' period

In 2007 the owners wished to sell their property. With advice from the Plunkett Foundation, a charity focussed on supporting rural enterprise and especially village shops, the decision was made to move temporarily to a purpose-built container, which was sited in the car park in the Hollowdene recreation ground. This required energetic planning and preparation, the issue of more Loan Bonds, that have since been repaid, and enthusiastic support from the residents once again to persuade the planners of its importance to the community.

Our Treasurer at the time, the late 'Paddy' Haines, was instrumental in the planning and implementation of the move to a cabin while continually supporting the day to day operation of the shop in so many ways. Paddy also set up a group called the "Friends of the Village Shop" to co-ordinate the new fund-raising efforts required.  At the instigation of Paddy and Chris Haines, in 2007, 2008 and 2011, Scarecrow Festivals were held in the village to help raise funds for the shop.  These proved incredibly popular and were repeated in 2015 and 2018 for the benefit of other local organisations.  Look out for another Scarecrow Festival in 2020 or 2021!

Newcomers to the village should note the wooden bench outside the shop which has a plaque in Paddy's memory.

The 'portacabin' shop was formally opened by our local MP Jeremy Hunt.


 

 

Meanwhile the shop committee was looking into the possibility of a new build shop at the end of the children's play area and a draft plan was produced. This would have required very considerable funds to be raised. Fortuitously the owners of Shortfield Garage decided that the property should be re-developed and the Parish Council was instrumental in persuading the owners and developers to make a major contribution to the local community. Thus in June 2010 developers Arcadia started demolition prior to building nine two-bedroom houses and a community building to hold both the Shop and a Parish Council room.

The New Shop

While the build was in progress we were able to specify our requirements for power and lighting, telephone, kitchen facilities etc and arrange for air-conditioning pipework to be installed before the ceiling was fitted.  A project team was set up headed by Andy Barker to plan and implement the complete fit out of the new premises.  So many decisions to make! Firstly - should we engage a professional shop-fitting company or take a DIY approach?  We decided we had the abilities for DIY and this would certainly keep the expenditure down.  Decoration, flooring, counters, shelving, refrigeration equipment, CCTV, computer system, signage - some of the key things that had to be thought about and sourced.  We decided early on that we would buy new shelving so that trading in the "cabin" could continue un-interrupted until a final changeover day into the new premises. The first design challenge was to decide on a shelving and counter layout and many options were considered. Finally, the short-listed options were laid out, at full scale, in the gym at More House School which enabled us to finalise our choice!

While all the project work was progressing further fund-raising was underway and applications were made for grants. The Surrey Hills Leader Fund, Farnham Institute Charity and Surrey Community Action all generously gave us grants.

All the shelving was assembled by committee members and helpers but the PO and shop counters were supplied and installed by a special PO-approved manufacturer. The chiller unit was bought second-hand via Ebay and the store-room shelving was given to us by Waitrose!

Finally, over the weekend of 4th/5th June 2011 a large team of people undertook the job of moving all the shop stock from the cabin to the new premises, by wheel-barrow, sack trolley and car boots, and then setting it out on the new shelving.

With excellent timing the red post box which had been outside the original shop, was returned the next day, newly refurbished and installed ready for use.

The official opening of the shop was held the following saturday, June 11th, with racing driver Damon Hill cutting the ribbon and in the presence of MP Jeremy Hunt and a large crowd of enthusiastic local residents!

The years since 2011 have generally seen slow but steady growth in sales and a gradual build up of reserves to the point where, in 2016, we were able to start making some useful donations to local charitable causes.  We repeated this Big Give-back in 2017 and 2018 but in 2019 decided that the shop needed re-vitalising and that we would use reserves for a major refurbishment and changes to our Opening Hours and product lines.  This is due to take effect in late summer 2019.