A whole lot more than a fruit and veg store

6th Aug 2019

A grocery in Dunbar is set to be the latest in Scotland to be taken into community ownership, after a successful fundraising campaign.

The Crunchy Carrot has been serving fruit and veg to Dunbar residents for almost twenty years, but with its current owners making the reluctant decision to move on to new ventures, questions had been raised about its future. A group of volunteers quickly formed, made up of a mixture of current staff and loyal customers, to assess options to continue the shop’s more-than-profit ethos and important role within the Dunbar community.

From its inception, The Crunchy Carrot – which will soon change name to The Community Carrot, reflecting its new ownership – has embodied its motto: “A whole lot more than a fruit and veg store”. As well as stocking a range of local produce, organic items, exotic ingredients and health foods, the shop has been a community hub and a progressive lead on sustainability.

Malcolm Sayers, secretary of the new Community Carrot, said ‘The shop is central to so much of what happens in Dunbar. Its work supporting local growers, sourcing ethical foods and delivering free to pensioners is part of what has made it so well-loved by the community.’ 

Keen to avoid the shop losing those principles, the group behind the recent campaign have used the community benefit society model to ensure the business will now be owned and managed by the people who use it.

Community benefit societies, sometimes known as BENCOMs, are a form of community ownership similar to a cooperative, where those who support the organisation can become members with a stake in its future. Any profits from the business must then be reinvested toward its social objectives. A key benefit of this legal structure is the ability to raise money through community shares, with The Community Carrot choosing to run a community share issue which opened in June 2018 and closed this week having raised £52,000 from its 400 members.

The money raised in community shares will help The Community Carrot to secure a Scottish Land Fund grant of £119,200 to purchase the shop building on Dunbar’s High Street, as well as providing working capital and funds to stock and refit the shop.

The project has been supported by Community Shares Scotland, a national support organisation for any communities wishing to issue community shares.

James Proctor, programme manager at Community Shares Scotland (CSS), said: “The Community Carrot is the latest in a growing trend of Scottish groups taking action to save local businesses through community ownership. CSS has supported several other communities to take on local shops, and we are starting to see the model used to fundraise for community pubs too. Our programme of support is fully funded by the Scottish Government and National Lottery Community Fund, meaning eligible groups can access expert business consultancy at no cost to them.”

Sayers added, 'The support we received from CSS has been fundamental in helping us to understand community shares, set up our legal structure, and to engage effectively with people. We’ve been blown away by the level of support from so many folk across the area, this says so much about both the shop and the community. Our consultations have been clear that people want to see the new not-for-profit venture focus on building on the social and environmental benefits developed over the years and for it to remain as a central community space. Our Board will work hard to make sure this happens.’