New Veg Shop feeds our Portas Pilot!

It’s only a month since MR BIG announced they were going to reinstate the fruit and veg shop at the heart of the Market Rasen high street, but things have already moved on a pace, with many developments to report.

The new shop website where you can register as a volunteer or veg box customer

The new shop now has a name, Greens of Lincolnshire, and an opening planned for early November. It will be a community project and a “not for profit” business, so any money the shop makes will be directly reinvested in the town’s on-going regeneration. On this basis, MR BIG is now looking to invite people in and around Rasen to support the venture in any way they can – as either customers or volunteers – to help regenerate Market Rasen and get their fresh and local “five a day”.

Central to the new shop’s services is a veg box scheme, a boon for anyone that finds it difficult to walk the high street in the daytime. For £10, £15 or £20 customers can enjoy free delivery to their door of a box full of local and fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs, within an eight mile radius of the town centre, to start with. And this service is not limited to home delivery, with Greens offering to deliver boxes to work addresses too. This ‘corporate service’ even includes boxes of fresh fruit purchased by a company for their staff to enjoy and stay healthy.

MR BIG is also looking for volunteers to spend a couple of hours a week in the shop, working alongside others and contributing to the community. The role of volunteers in the shop’s set up is pivotal, as this means MR BIG can re-invest money into the community that would have been spent on salaries.

“It was a sad day when the Rasen Farm Shop closed its doors for the last time,” explained MR BIG’s volunteer finance director, Richard Hallsworth, “sad for the people involved with it but also for the community. Market Rasen is a market town and should promote the very best Lincolnshire food producers. Our markets showcase all things food on a monthly basis so it seems right that the high street should have a permanent retail business doing the same.

Left to right outside the shop: Sara Scott (MR BIG), Jayne Cartwright (The Charity Retail Consultancy), Richard Hallsworth (MR BIG) & Pamela Clarkson (the new Greens of Lincolnshire Manager) . MR BIG was delighted to have Jayne visit Market Rasen for an afternoon to share her considerable knowledge and many inspiring ideas for the new shop. Jayne was awarded the much coveted top prize of Woman of the Year 2010 at the Everywoman in Retail awards, and has worked with Mary Portas on the BBC program  ‘Mary Queen of Charity Shops’. She is also the founder of The Charity Retail Consultancy.

“The MR BIG team spent time looking into the business of farm shop retailing, checked our numbers and business plan and researched the ‘how to’.

“Whilst we wanted to restore a farm shop to the high street we also wanted to create a meeting place where people could visit, enjoy and learn more about all those fantastic Lincolnshire foods and the producers behind them. We also wanted to create a cash surplus that could help build out the sustainable part of the overall MR BIG business plan. We are acutely aware that the Portas money will only last for 18 months, maybe two years, and therefore we need to develop a plan that will generate funds and enable the good work to continue.”

Other good news from the creation of Greens of Lincolnshire comes in the form of the newly appointed manager for the shop, Pamela Clarkson. Pamela is a well-known face in the town who worked for Market Rasen’s Oxfam branch for 30 years, 24 as a volunteer and six as a manger until the shop closed in August this year.

Pamela commented on her appointment: “I’ve lived in Market Rasen all my life, I love the town, so I am really looking forward to this fabulous new venture that’s central to making Rasen thrive. To be back in the high street and helping the community means I am back doing the things I love too. I’m also excited about putting a new shop in the high street full of fresh Lincolnshire produce, and making it something really special, something with the ‘wow factor’!

“I’ve already done lots of research to find local food suppliers, and I am getting to know the MR BIG volunteer directors through our many meetings about the shop. I’m confident I can take Greens to where it can be, and have already had several conversations with my Oxfam customers who are so pleased to see me back in the high street.”

Pamela Clarkson,

“Pamela will work with our volunteer directors to ensure the shop becomes best practice on the high street and a beacon of excellence,” added Richard. “And it’s worth stating again that none of the 12 MR BIG directors can be paid for their work or from the profits of Greens of Lincolnshire, or any other Portas activities. The MR BIG community interest company we have created to manage the Portas Pilot project clearly states that directors cannot be paid for their involvement, to ensure they are true volunteers.”

MR BIG is fortunate enough to have a brand consultant among those volunteer directors, Sara Scott, and she is bringing all her professional skills to the project, for free, to make the Greens of Lincolnshire look like a shop Mary Portas would be proud of.

Sara explained how MR BIG’s progress in the Market Rasen high street is also being watched carefully by central government: “When we met Mary and government ministers at the recent Portas Pilot gathering in London, she said every town team should own a shop, but most didn’t know how to build one. The Department for Communities and Local Government were so impressed with our ideas that they are going to produce a case study about our retail plans.”

To register for the new box scheme or to be a shop volunteer, visit the Greens of Lincolnshire website at http://www.greensoflincolnshire.co.uk/