A community owned chip shop? When you say it, it seems an obvious idea! Chelmsley Wood, in north Solihull, is about to have what they believe to be the country’s first community owned chippy.
It all started a couple of years ago when four local organisations saw an opportunity to benefit the local economy on every level. ‘We saw new shop units going up as part of Solihull MBC regeneration program,’ says Neil Roberts from Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, one of the partners, ‘and we though, someone will put a chippy in there, why not us? We talked with Central England Co-Op who were building the units and they were supportive of the idea and asked us to submit a proposal.’
What followed was two years of planning, negotiating and a few sleepless nights. Four local organisations formed a social enterprise to manage the new business. These were the local churches (St Andrew’s and Chelmsley Wood Baptist), Development in Social Enterprise (a local social enterprise consultancy firm), Olive Branch Kitchen (a community café) and Three Trees Community Centre. Alan Crawford, manager at Three Trees continues, ‘The four partners brought the skills required, community development, business planning and catering, and formed the dream team for a community owned business.’
The partners emphasise that the chippy is a business, not a charitable project. ‘The only difference between us and the next business along is that a social enterprise is set up to reinvest its profit back into its community’, explains Dave Lane. ‘It is a business model, but the profits are locked in to guarantee community benefit.’ There is an emphasis on employing local people and using local supplies wherever possible, as well as the extra benefits to the local economy as money stays in the community rather than going to distant shareholders or centralised national offices.
So what is the plan? The shop, called Chelmund’s Fish and Chips, opens for business on Thursday 1st March. ‘People aren’t camping outside yet,’ jokes Mitchell Sherriff, the new manager, ‘but I wouldn’t be surprised given the number of people saying how long they’ve been waiting a chippy!’. Once the shop is operational, after overheads, any profits will be reinvested back into the community. Mike Harmon, the local Anglican vicar, says, ‘the money belongs to the community, we’ll use it to support local projects and events, and in the longer term we’ll be looking to start new businesses up and offer even more employment and opportunity.’
Come along and try us out!
Chelmund’s Fish & Chips, 856 Chester Road, Chelmund’s Cross, B37 7WG