Publicans Emma and John Hitchins have created a village store in only two weeks, opening in time for England’s second national lockdown.

Open for business: John and Emma Hitchins outside their pub and village store

The shop opened with the support of Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit organisation that helps pubs to diversify and provide essential local services.

The publicans, who took over The Bell Inn, Leigh-on-Mendip, Somerset, in September, soon realised the village, that has around 500 houses and limited public transport, was in need of a shop as the nearest was at least two miles away.

The Hitchens opened their store with the help of a £3,000 grant from the Pub is the Hub Community Services Fund. The grant enabled a laundry room to be transformed into the essential amenity. And with John’s carpentry skills, the store was created in double-quick time. 

The shop sells a range of essentials, including fresh milk from a local farmer, fruit and vegetables, bread, meat, cereals, eggs, and drinks. Lockdown has prompted the publicans to increase the range of products to include items such as nappies, shampoo, and conditioner. 

Emma, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the pub industry, said: “I have been aware of  Pub is The Hub and its great work for a number of years. We could see that the village really needed this service, especially as we are again in lockdown. 

“When we took over the pub, I asked local residents if they wanted a shop and the response was overwhelmingly positive. There is limited local transport in the area and we have a number of older people as well as families living here that needed a shop closer to home.”

Regional advisor for Pub is The Hub, Reg Clarke, said: “This must be the quickest ever creation of a village store at a pub. The pure hard work and determination of Emma and John to get this store open in time for the latest national lockdown has provided a fantastic new service for the village.” 

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