Ilsington’s award-winning community shop is celebrating 10 years of trading

In 2012 there was a very special day in the village of Ilsington.

After nearly four years of planning, fundraising and organising, Ilsington Village Shop finally opened its doors to the public for the first time.

It was a very proud and emotional day for everyone and the opening speeches reflected that.

The late Tony Beard, BBC Radio Devon presenter and local celebrity, cut the ribbon ‘disguised’ as his alter ego, the Widecombe Wag.

The children from Ilsington Primary School sang a beautiful song and refreshments were served in the hall and there was food tasting in the shop.

Ten years on, many of the founding committee members, and even some of the original volunteers, are still involved and have shared details of the long road to that day in July 2012.

When the privately-owned village shop near the Ilsington Country Hotel closed, the community began a three-year search for premises and funding.

The Village Hall was adding a meeting room so it was agreed that this work would blend well with the addition of a community-run shop.

A grant of £180,000 from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) made the shop a viable prospect. Contributions from shareholders raised additional funds to reach the required £230,000 to build and open the shop; this included a fundraising initiative to buy tiles for the roof.

Founder member Alan Hobbs recalls how they had to be light on their feet to secure fixtures and fittings: ‘The Coop were very supportive and we were fortunate that they were refitting their Chelston store so I went over with my trailer to collect shelving.’

Former John Lewis employee Emma Schramm was the first manager and her knowledge and experience established its style, which remains today.

Emma is still involved in the shop as a committee member and has just taken over as chair from Su Wheaton who has also been involved in the shop from the beginning.

In 2015, the shop was a finalist in the Parliamentary Best Small Shops Competition and was declared to be one of 20 community treasures by The Daily Telegraph.

Current manager Katherine Bainbridge and assistant manager Fiona Coles steered the shop through the Covid lockdowns, keeping customers stocked up on loo rolls and other essentials when the big supermarkets ran out.

At this time, the shop really showed its value to the community with high sales and a busy delivery service.

Today, it continues to be a vibrant hub of the Ilsington community and its environs.

Its range of products is constantly evolving with a particular focus on using small local producers wherever possible.

The shop hosts the Post Office on Mondays and Fridays and takes orders each week for those who struggle to get there.

Protecting the environment is central to the shop’s ethos with refillable milk and a wide range of environmentally-friendly products.

The shop is staffed by a range of local volunteers who are always ready to give that extra bit of help to customers when needed.

A very special place indeed.