The Pennsylvania community has come together to create Sylvania Community Stores, a space for people to meet, shop and join in with activities and events. This is an exciting project that will involve hundreds of people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, and centres around repurposing an old supermarket to use as a community led local store and meeting place.
Peter Stevenson, a driving force behind the project, has written this week’s #ShareYourMoves blog, telling us how the initiative will bring people together in the community and reduce the need for so many car journeys to the supermarket.
Sylvania Community Stores and Café – a community hub for the people of Pennsylvania
By Peter Stevenson
There is no infrastructure in Pennsylvania, a development of over 1,000 houses, and far too often residents drive off the estate to shop and socialise. This is a daily occurrence for hundreds of people, in fact our survey revealed an average of 450 car journeys per day, passing the currently empty shop – many to visit local supermarkets and cafes. We expect to cut this number in half. When our community shop and café opens many of these journeys will not be necessary as we will create a vibrant setting full of drop-in community activity.
The unused, old supermarket in Sylvania Drive is in the process of being transformed into a community shop and café drawing upon the local cottage industries that grow and produce jam, chutney, bread, plants and more. We will also include the work of local artists, and our community café will include a story telling corner, art and craft activities, sing-a-long sessions, a board games club, a toy library and much more. Our research has shown us that there is an urgent need for a space to bring people of all ages together in a spirit of community friendship.
We are a community benefit society (CBS) approved by the financial conduct authority (FCA). Our management committee comprises all local residents with a range of skills.
We will be a not-for-profit community enterprise with surplus funds returned to the business to offer an even better service, and we will work in partnership with other groups on projects for all residents including those with additional needs. The Devon Wildlife Trust, a local walking group, and the newly formed Pennsylvania International Friendship Group and the Young Sylvas youth group are just four examples. Our extensive community survey showed a remarkably high level of support for the project.
Our research has shown that community stores donate to local clubs and societies and we aim to do the same. The values of race and gender equality, the celebration of cultural diversity and a focus on the impressive skills of local people will be central to this project. We also aim to create something highly sustainable by becoming the greenest community setting in the city, and the many testimonials received from community leaders show the positive impact we will have on the wellbeing of so many.
The sales turnover is projected to be enough to keep us going in a not-for-profit capacity based on being open 67 hours per week with an average of around 14 customers per hour. We will start with two unwaged managers supported by up to 30 volunteers. We aim to employ a part time manager and café supervisor in the autumn. A share offer to the local community, for just £25 per share, a JustGiving page and weekly coffee mornings are all currently raising valued funds. We’re also planning a series of fundraising evening events involving pizza, ice cream and live music! We would ask anyone with an interest in the Pennsylvania area and community initiatives to please support us as we need to raise another £5,000 in addition to the generous support from Exeter City Council, Exeter Lions and the National Lottery.
With thanks Pete Stevenson