First anniversary of Derbyshire store which has proved a lifeline

A village food store in Derbyshire which opened last summer is celebrating an eventful first year which has seen it provide locals and lifesavers at the neighbouring hospital with vital food and essentials during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Central England Co-op in Top Road, Calow, opened in the former Somerset House pub last August when colleagues were joined by representatives from the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, which sits next door to the store, to cut the ribbon.

Over the following 12 months the store has continued to grow its links with the hospital and was recently thanked by bosses there for the support it has shown for its workers on the frontline of the pandemic.

The store has also worked closely with the local community to support vulnerable residents, teaming up with St Peter’s Church and volunteers from Calow Parish Council to create a service to ensure elderly and housebound villagers’ needs were met during lockdown.

Store Manager Gary Bonsall

Store Manager Gary Bonsall said: “We have had our challenges, but the team here have really pulled together through the Covid pandemic. The team have all worked for each other and supported each through these challenging times. We have a great blend and it’s like a family more than a team.

“We’ve developed close ties with the hospital and the local community which has been great. We had a handwritten thank you from the head of the hospital saying that we always made it safe for staff coming in and kept the queues down for them, so they could get what they needed quickly, which we worked hard to do.

“We are really proud of our links with the hospital as it is such a major part of the community and were looking forward to doing lots of projects with them which sadly hasn’t been possible because of Covid so hopefully we can do more with them in the future.”

Gary has worked in retail his whole career and been at Central England Co-op for 14 years, helping to launch a number of new stores. However, leading the new store at Calow had unique challenges to overcome.

He said: “There were some people locally who weren’t sure when we opened because obviously historically this was a pub, and some wanted the pub to come back, but it had been empty for a number of years.

“However, we have had a huge amount of positive comments and people coming in saying they could not have managed without us, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable, and we have had  lots of cakes, boxes of chocolates and thank you notes which has been lovely.

“I’ve also been really proud of the initiative shown by colleagues and I have really tried to empower them and give them responsibility. A lot of initiatives have come from ideas from colleagues, such as the one-way system which worked really well, and we shared that learning across the Society and it has now been rolled out across all stores.”

The Calow Co-operative Food Store is open from 7am to 10pm, Monday to Sunday and has features including a Costa Coffee machine, free cash machine, car park, outdoor seating and picnic areas.

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