Sir; This is a wonderful story of a community pulling together to keep their Village Store going.
Eight years ago Richard and Ann Walter came to the rescue of a local shop in Mannings Heath, West Sussex, as it was about to close. Since then, as with many shops in rural settings, the big food outlets and changing buying patterns have seriously affected its income.
In Mannings Heath, the Tesco bus stops right outside the shop to pick up villagers and, to top it all, a Spar Convenience Shop opened at the local garage. The situation became unsustainable and the Walters told customers that they would have to close.
The reaction was instant. People, including Lord Tebbit, wanted to know where they would get their papers and milk, or stop for a chat while walking their dogs - in short, they decided everything should be done to keep the shop going.
A committee was formed to request support with donations to change it to a Farm and Delicatessen Store. Help was gained from the Rural Sussex Association and Taste of Sussex. Research showed people would prefer fresh, local produce.
More than 140 residents donated £19,500 for the store refit. A local farmer has given it exclusive rights on his Dexter beef. Fresh vegetables will come from another farmer. There will be local and regional cheeses, and freshly baked breads.
An official launch is due on September 3, with a preview the night before to thank donors and give them loyalty discount cards.