'We are more than just a chippy'
The country’s first community-owned chippy has opened, and Baptists are at the heart of it
Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church
Chelmund’s Fish and Chips is an ethical business in North Solihull which not only serves a tasty menu, but ploughs its profits back into the community.
‘We saw new shop units going up as part of the Solihull regeneration program,’ says Neil Roberts, minister of Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, ‘and we thought, someone will put a chippy in there.
‘Why not us?’
Chemsley Wood, still one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England despite the regeneration, had been without a chippy for about six years. Neil and others didn’t want a large chain coming in and taking the profits to distant shareholders. Instead they saw an opportunity to benefit the local economy on every level.
The idea was pitched to developer Central England Co-Op, which was supportive and asked for a proposal. What followed was ‘two years of planning, negotiating (and a few sleepless nights)’, which bore fruit last Thursday (1 March), when the chippy opened to long queues at the height of the cold snap.
and local ecumenical partnership St Andrew’s
(Anglican/Methodist) have teamed up with three local organisations to form a social enterprise to manage the business. And they stress it’s a business, not a charitable project.
‘We wanted to be an example of an ethical business which has the community’s interests at heart,’ Neil explains. ‘The profits are locked in to guarantee community benefit.’
There is also a strong emphasis on local employment, as well as using local suppliers and offering a quality product. All profits will be reinvested back into the community.
Already there has been much interest, with takings above target. Neil says, ‘It’s early days, but it’s great to see the community get it. They wanted fish and chips, and as they begin to realise about the profits, it’s like a double win.
‘Once we’re able to filter the money back, it will be even better.’
The other partners include Development in Social Enterprise
(a local social enterprise consultancy firm), Olive Branch Kitchen (a community café) and Three Trees Community Centre
It’s been an empowering process, Neil says. ‘It shows what the community can do when it comes together. We can do this ourselves. We don’t have to be dictated to by big businesses that take their profits elsewhere.
‘And with money comes power. Hopefully as a community we can start making our own choices in the future, rather than always asking for grants.’
From the church’s point of view, this is not an evangelistic project: it’s missional, Neil says. ‘The church is a clearly stated presence in the community.
‘How do we live the gospel here? This is a way of supporting our community.’ He believes more churches will consider social enterprises in the future due to a combination of financial challenges and the opportunities they bring.
The project was supported by a grant from the Heart of England Baptist Association, which Neil said was crucial in unlocking further funding. HEBA regional minister Dave Ellis was on hand to support the opening. (Dave is pictured left, with Neil)
‘Without the support from HEBA, we would have really struggled to get off the ground,’ Neil says. ‘They saw it as an innovative missional project. They were great.’
In all the project has cost a little more than £120,000. Other funders include CAF Venturesome, the North Solihull Partnership, and the Simon Digby Charitable Trust.
There has been media interest too, with pieces in the Birmingham Mail
and the BBC
. The One Show airs a segment on the new chippy on Wednesday (7 March).
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