A VILLAGE shop helped through crisis times by the huge support of its local customers has won a regional award.
Belsay Shop has been named Countryside Alliance North East village shop and post office of the year for 2008 and will vie for the national title against winners from the rest of Britain.
Its post office was one of 81 that network bosses announced they were seeking to close last July.
Belsay Estate, which own the shop and post office, set up a petition opposing the closure which attracted more than 800 signatures, the most for any branch in Northumberland. However, following the six-week consultation period, the move was rubber-stamped and bosses announced they were to replace the post office with a visiting postmistress.
However Belsay Estate rejected this, so it was agreed that subpostmistress Stephanie Jarron would continue to run the post office and be paid to offer services. The Countryside Alliance in giving the award acknowledged, however, that the shop lost a major source of income when the post office salary was lost.
And it considered the fact that the shop now has to fund the limited service it offers given the small payment it receives from the post office.
The alliance’s regional director and head judge Richard Dodd added: “The closure programme by the was a blunt instrument that got it wrong closing places by geographical means.”
Belsay shop also receives daily deliveries of fresh, locally-grown vegetables from two suppliers.
Miss Jarron, 41, who took over the running of the shop and post office two years ago, said it is also a place where villagers come to chat, as Belsay has no pub or other community meeting place. Both factors were acknowledged by the alliance.
Mr Dodd said: “The shop is a happy place that also takes in many local products and is an appreciated community hub for the community.”
Miss Jarron, who lives in Belsay, was last night delighted to have received the award. She was particularly pleased that the alliance recognised the position she has been left in by the post office. “My salary has been taken away and all I get is less than a quarter of what I got. I run a very small business in a tiny shop and I am being used by the government to subsidise the post office in Northumberland.”
Miss Jarron was also pleased that the shop’s value to the community had been highlighted.
Award winners were chosen by Mr Dodd from a shortlist prepared following nominations from members of the public.