Rural fruit and veg shop official opening postponed… but the food is getting through.
Press Release, Social Firms Scotland
The official ministerial ribbon-cutting for an Aberdeenshire fruit and veg shop may have been postponed but vital food supplies are still making it to the shelves.
Residents in the small village of Longside have recently been thrown a lifeline that will secure the local fruit and veg shop … come rain or snow … well into the future.
The Fruit Mart not only provides fresh and healthy food to the village but it also provides supported employment for 17 people with learning disabilities who would be unlikely to find employment elsewhere.
It would certainly have faced a challenge to survive the downturn in such a location but it has become the first firm in Scotland to benefit from a new programme set up to support the development of social firms.
The official opening the new-look Fruit Mart, originally scheduled for Friday 10 December by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, has now been postponed owing to the weather, but the vital fruit and veg supplies are still making it on to the shelves.
Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) which already provides healthy fresh food across a network of outlets in north and east Scotland and West Lothian was able to buy the Fruit Mart thanks to a programme run by Social Firms Scotland set up to create firms with social aims. CFINE was also supported in the purchase with a £25,000 contribution through Aberdeenshire Fairer Scotland Fund.
Dave Simmers, chief executive officer of CFINE said: “Longside is a small community, like so many in rural Aberdeenshire, which badly needs local shops to remain open.
“The Fruit Mart, which has been serving the village well for years, not only provides healthy fresh fruit and vegetables at low cost, but it also gives much-needed supported employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities.
“The previous owner, Ms Frances Ritchie, born and bred in the area, has a passion for her workers, the adults with learning disabilities, and we are delighted Frances she will be able continue as an employee with CFINE.”
The Fruit Mart is the first acquisition in Scotland made possible under the Lottery funded Acquiring Business For Good (AB4G) programme which supports charities and social enterprises to acquire private businesses and transition them to create social firms. The programme is delivered by Social Firms Scotland, the national body for social firm development in Scotland.
Pauline Graham, Social Firms Scotland’s chief executive said: “This deal epitomises the benefits of the Acquiring Business for Good programme: CFINE has acquired a profitable business and experienced staff in a new location and the local community has kept a business which provides much-needed services and employment for a variety of staff, including those with severe disadvantages.”
The Fruit Mart will be CFINE’s operational base in north Aberdeenshire in addition to others in Aberdeen, south Aberdeenshire, West Lothian and Moray. CFINE manages about 120 food outlets in total and this new base will allow it to continue to provide healthy foods in rural Aberdeenshire at affordable prices.
As part of the shop’s re-launch, the property was given a makeover by Aberdeen Foyer’s Prince’s Trust Team and there are plans in the longer term to open a café which will provide a social focus for the village which has no pubs and only one general store.