Group set to save local store

A group of volunteers has been formed to save the village store in Barr from disappearing.

Towards the end of last year, the owners of Barr Stores announced their intention to cease trading in the summer and the store has been up for sale since then.

However, with no prospective buyers coming forward and following a community-wide survey, two public meetings were held in the village hall where it was decided to start a community-run venture.

As a result, a new Barr Store Steering Group was formed to oversee the transition of the shop and post office to community ownership and it held it first meeting earlier this month.

The group of ten people consists of Mike Ross (Chair), Ronnie Blyth (Secretary), Anett Forsyth (Treasurer) along with Dianne Stewart, Velma Ross, Nigel Templeton, Christine and William Orr, Anna Connon and June Graney.

Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP Adam Ingram said that he was “delighted to see the community coming together through the good offices of Ailsa Horizons and the Hadyard Hill Community Benefit Fund to ensure that such a vital local service will continue to serve the community of Barr.

This follows the examples of other successful community-run shops in South Ayrshire.” Assisting the group through the administrative and legal procedures which accompany the setting up of a social enterprise are Julia Whitaker of Ailsa Horizons and Catriona Haston, Village Development Worker with the Hadyard Hill Community Benefit Fund.

Both were involved in setting up the highly successful Kirkmichael Community Shop and Café and Catriona, who is from Kirkmichael, is still very active in the running of the shop and café and often to be found behind the till or in the kitchen whipping up some of the homemade delights the place is famous for.

Indeed, strong links have been formed between the Kirkmichael and Barr shops, several representatives from the Kirkmichael Community Shop having paid a visit to Barr to advise the community with more visits planned for the future.

Councillor Alec Oattes stated, “I welcome this Community Initiative to take on this project. In these difficult times it is important that Barr Community supports this venture, which is vital for the future well being of the village and surrounding area.  The future looks rosy for Barr shop with such a dedicated group of people determined to ensure its success.”  As Nigel Templeton of the group said, “The shop is the heart of the village – it just has to succeed.  There isn’t another option”.   

There are many small communities seeking to retain their local shop, post office or petrol pumps and community ownership can offer a sustainable, long-term solution. The local shop is a vital element in making a community viable and a desirable place to live.

It is often the hub of the community and can deliver valuable services as well as having an important social function.

As Councillor John McDowall put it, “Rural shops are a vital part of the economic and social well being of our rural communities and it is a tribute to the community spirit in Barr that the residents are coming together to meet the challenges posed by the threatened closure of the village shop in June .

If the shop were to close, then many of the everyday services that only local shops can provide would be lost.  Small shops can provide a level of personal service and goods that you will never find in the supermarket, and they are on your doorstep. I am delighted to support this initiative.”   

Councillor Ian Fitzsimmons also welcomed the formation of the group saying, “I am delighted that the meeting was a success and give my full support to their hope to take over the shop.”

 With more and more of our shops and services being lost every year, solutions to reverse this trend are proving that a growing number of communities are using tried models of community-owned retailing to retain and develop their local assets.

Pictured in the photograph from L to R are: Catriona Haston (seated), Velma Ross (seated), Anna Connon, Mike Ross, Christine Orr, Nigel Templeton, Annette Forsyth, Dianne Stewart and William Orr.