Weald celebrates as village shop wins ‘Best Business in the Community’ award
VILLAGERS in Sevenoaks Weald had cause to celebrate recently after the Weald Community Shop & Cafe was given the accolade of ‘Best Business in the Community’ at the recent Making It Happen Community & Voluntary Awards 2019, organised by Sevenoaks District Council.
The award was presented to village residents Ian and Linda Walker, the husband and wife team who set up the community venture in July 2017, following the closure of the Weald’s last remaining shop. They were accompanied by shop manager Karen Elsom, who has been closely involved with the community business since its inception.
Over a celebratory coffee in the shop, Linda Walker said: “Thanks to all the villagers who have supported us and given custom to the shop in the 18 months we have been operating.”
Ian added: “We’re proud to have set up a community business that is self funding and is so well loved by the community.”
Weald Community Shop & Cafe, which is based in the refurbished Wesleyan Chapel opposite the green in the heart of the village, has gone from strength to strength from humble beginnings selling newspapers, bread and a few staple groceries from the village’s Memorial Hall.
After a spell at St George’s Church, and nine months in a makeshift cabin, the store moved in May 2017 into the former Wesleyan Chapel, which is owned by the Parish Council. It now boasts a well-used cafe and stocks fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, fresh bread and croissants, deli items, bacon and sausages, frozen goods, greetings cards and a whole range of grocery items from 14 local suppliers.
The store is staffed by a rota of more than 40 volunteers and many more villagers are involved in maintenance, administration and marketing. A much-valued prescription collection service is provided twice a week by retired doctor Paul Allen and a team of ardent seamstresses provide the shop’s environmentally-efficient boomerang bags.
Lucy Harris, deputy chair of Weald Parish Council, which nominated the Weald Community Shop & Cafe for an award, said: “We are thrilled that Ian, Linda and Karen have received this well-deserved accolade for their enormous contribution to village life. On behalf of the village, this is a heartfelt thank you to them, and to each and every volunteer who has helped make the shop such an important community resource for us all.”
Also recognised at the ceremony was Weald resident Sue Gidman, with an Individual Community Champion award for her enormous contribution to village life as editor of the Weald News village newsletter, for spearheading the ‘Changing Face of Weald’ history book and her role in the World War I commemorations. Ian Walker accepted the award from retired BBC news presenter Peter Sissons, on Sue’s behalf.
The night was compared by Leader of the Council, Cllr Peter Fleming, who said: “The Making it Happen Community Awards ceremony is a wonderful evening recognising the achievements and hard work of amazing groups and individuals in our communities. Everyone has been nominated by people who see the value of what is being achieved by these individuals and groups across the District, this year the calibre of those nominated was incredibly high and the judges had the unenviable task of finding a winner in each category, so I would like to share my massive congratulations to all the winners and all those nominated.”
- The Weald Community Shop & Cafe opening hours are Monday-Saturday 8.30am to noon and Sunday 9am-11am. Additional opening on Fridays 3pm-4pm during term times for school tuck shop. Prescription collection service is available 10am-11am Tuesdays and Thursdays.