By Erin Lyons Reporter, Oxford Mail
Headington Fairtrade shop volunteers and committee outside the London Road store. Picture: Headington Fairtrade
A FAIRTRADE shop where Archbishop Desmond Tutu once bought chocolate has celebrated its 10th anniversary.
On Wednesday, March 4, during Fairtrade Fortnight, the managing committee of Headington Fairtrade marked the milestone at Ruskin College.
Two of the shop’s founding members, Dr John Coyle and Rachel Walding shared the vision behind opening Headington Fairtrade and the shop’s gradual development on London Road.
Dr Coyle said: “We spent quite some time in the planning stages, with frequent frustration; then the pace quickened and we signed a lease on January 28, 2010, which was followed by a frantic few weeks to clear out, repair, refurbish, and furnish the premises, and to stock the shelves.”
The unofficially opened on February 26, before an official launch event on March 2.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu paid a visit shortly after the shop opened and insisted on buying a bar of fairtrade chocolate to show his support.
Dr Coyle said: “It did require a huge amount of volunteer time, and it still does. It was financially very risky - I don’t think we realised the high level of risk. There was a lot to learn.
“But the venture was launched, and continues, thanks to great work and support from many people.”
He added: “Operating a retail shop is not in itself a charitable activity, so we set up as a community co-operative. Being a co-op means that each member/shareholder can have an equal say, such as in the annual election of a representative management committee.
“As a community co-op we see ourselves as connecting the communities of Headington with the communities in which the products we sell are grown or made. People are at the heart of what we do, and who we do it for.”
He also paid tribute to the ‘driving forces’ behind the shop opening, Elizabeth Whitwick, who died in February, 2016.
He said: “She was unique - determined, kind and generous, and passionate in her belief that we have a duty to do something for those less fortunate than ourselves.”
Headington Fairtrade is a co-operative business and is staffed entirely by volunteers who work in shifts, six days a week.
There is now a full-time manager in place, Suzie Hodgson, who purchases products from around the world, and oversees the running of the business.The shop is stocked with a range of organic food which includes tea, coffee, chocolate and olive oil; there are organic toiletries and artisan products that reflect innovative ideas for recycling, upcycling, and protecting the environment.