It’s an all too familiar story; the village shop, post office, or pub, which was once the local convenient centre and social hub has been forced to close. A community is left wondering where to turn. Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) and LEADER partnership companies in Carlow, Laois, North Tipperary and South Tipperary are working in a joint effort to address this growing social and economic situation and the impact it is having on Ireland’s rural communities. A number of communities are now viewing this loss as a call to action and are coming together to create an alternative: the community shop.

Earlier this year, KLP organised Ireland’s First Community Retail Conference in Co Tipperary.

The conference was attended by over 200 delegates, from as far afield as Donegal and West Cork. Delegates heard just how successful community owned shops have become in the UK, where approximately 260 community shops are now operating and the numbers are increasing. An average of 26% of their sales, come from local producers, providing a vital outlet for farmers, food producers and craftspeople. Also in attendance to the conference, were Ireland’s first and only two community owned shops: Crosspatrick Community Shop and Loughmore Community Shop and Tea Rooms. They told of their experience and reiterated the fact that there is no right or wrong way of setting up a community shop. All you need is a committed community, a few volunteers and a venue.

The conference aimed to inform and inspire rural communities in the potential of community owned shops. It also hopes to influence public policy to support this concept.

A few dedicated locals in Windgap are exploring their options for a community shop. KLP is eager to hear from any communities who would like more information on setting up a community retail shop
in their village.