Opening the shop saved our pub business

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A rural Herefordshire pub would have gone out of business if it hadn’t opened a village shop and diversified its services.

Jason and Lisa Hudson had purchased the freehold of The Bells Inn, Almeley near Leominster six years but five later with a falling turnover had found themselves in arrears with the mortgage. At the back of their minds they wondered if re-opening the village shop would be the answer – it closed eight years before and villagers had to travel at least 5 miles to the nearest shop.

They were speaking earlier this week at an event for rural pub champions, Pub is The Hub, at the Lady Emily Community Hall in Tarrington.  They were helping to launch a scheme called Local Community Services Champions to support other rural Herefordshire pubs to branch out into new services.

Lisa and Jason opened their shop in the pub a year ago, featuring a range of organic products as well as locally supplied produce and home-made delicatessen items such as pies, quiches and cakes and haven’t looked back since: Some villagers, many of whom are retired, were so thrilled with the new service they began to volunteer to serve in the shop – now they have six regular volunteers who cover busy times of the week. Lisa and Jason have paid off their debts and are on a much more stable footing financially – so much so that they are thinking of developing some holiday homes on land at the back of the pub.

Also speaking at the event was Helen Coombes, Director for Adults Wellbeing for Herefordshire County Council who said that an increased demand for social care against a reducing budget meant that pubs in rural areas could be the answer for some elderly and vulnerable adults when it comes to providing a good value, locally sourced meal and break from social isolation.

Pub is The Hub is a not-for-profit organisation that can provide support and, if appropriate, funding for pub operators and owners who are considering a diversification scheme. Schemes of this type include providing post offices, shops, libraries, internet cafes, allotment schemes, school dinners, lunch clubs for the elderly, cash point machines, IT training and meeting rooms.

John Longden, Chief Executive of Pub is The Hub said: “Our Local Community Champions scheme is there to provide the impetus to hard-working, community-minded licensees. With support from the Big Lottery Fund and Herefordshire County Council we are hoping to set up around 20 such schemes of this type with the great landlords and landladies who want to support their communities. They just need to get in touch with us and we will put them in touch with a local representative who can start the ball rolling.”

For anyone interested in find out more, please telephone 01423 546165 or go to localhost/pithfor more information.

The photograph above shows Lisa and Jason Hudson from The Bells Inn on the left with Adrian Shaw from the New Harp Inn and John Longden, Chief Executive of Pub is The Hub.