Martin Steele and Laura Cook took on The George Inn at Tiffield in July 2020 as the pub industry was opening up after the first Covid-19 lockdown. After an extensive refurbishment the pub reopened in August with great support from the local residents.
Tiffield is a rural village in South Northamptonshire, with a population of around 400. The George Inn is the only pub within a two-mile radius in a village where there are many elderly and vulnerable residents.
By the second lockdown in November the publicans realised that there was a need for a village shop. Many local residents did not want to travel and there was also a need to help combat the social isolation of lockdown.
With the announcement of the latest lockdown, Martin and Laura decided to open a shop in the village to help residents in the local area and to keep people safe. The shop only offered basics at the start, but after just three days, they had an overwhelming response to keep it going, with an extended range.
A grant from the Pub is The Hub Community Services Fund meant that one of the rooms at the pub was transformed into a shop.
The publicans sourced produce from other local businesses including local butcher HWJ Pargiter Butchers to sell warm sausage rolls, pasties and pork pies at lunchtime. A new coffee machine also meant that the pub now offers takeaway hot drinks.
Gluten-free bakery, The Little Bakery of Happiness provides the shop with pies, cakes and tarts, while previous Tiffield resident, Steve Reid from Friars Farm, supplies homemade pickles and jam. Eggs are delivered each week from a farm at Greens Norton and there are twice weekly bread deliveries from Whittlebury Bakery.
The pub is also offering a takeaway menu with toasties, bagels and paninis along with evening meals such as fish and chips and sausage and mash.
Outcomes so far:
Residents have described the shop as a key service for the local area.
Local customers said:
“What an asset, not just to our village but the surrounding area.”
“The shop has gone from strength to strength, becoming an integral part of village life, supplying both essential supplies and those extra treats that make getting through the various restrictions, all that bit easier.”
“It has been fantastic to get locally produced and sourced meats, pies, cakes etc along with other basic essentials in a safe environment, without having to risk health by going to a supermarket.”
Lessons to Learn:
- A village shop cannot only serve to offer essentials but can help with issues around social isolation and loneliness. Laura said: “It’s been incredibly rewarding to see people come in for essentials but also pop by on their walks to grab a bar of chocolate simply because they want to have a chat for a couple of minutes too.”
- Helping other businesses has meant that there is a stronger bond with people within the local area. Laura added: “It’s been important for us to help other local businesses –
meaning we’re doing out bit to keep small businesses afloat but also because local people care about where their products come from.”
- A book swap within the shop has proved to be a lifeline for the local residents. The customers have loved feeling that they have contributed by bringing in their books for others to read and also have a chance to grab a new title.
- As new publicans engaging with people and responding to their needs has meant that they have really made themselves an important hub of the local area in a short space of time.
What The Pub is The Hub regional advisor Dave Allan said about the project: “The village shop has become a crucial amenity for those living locally and has helped to keep the spirits up of many in the local area.”