Bùth Bharraigh is making plans to celebrate their sixth birthday, looking forward with determination and positivity.
Six years ago yesterday (Wednesday September 11th) the directors learnt that their lease application had been successful, at the end of November they got the keys to the shop and by Christmas they were set up and welcoming customers.
The setting up took a big effort from volunteers to decorate and fit the shop interior, but the effort was willingly given and continues to this day.
The Bùth has a volunteer workforce of 12 and a board of seven directors, all committed to offering as wide a range of services and products as possible.
Two years ago they took on the role of tourist information following the closure of the VisitScotland tourist office and now they have a year-round flow of visitors and residents browsing maps, crafts, organic foods and fresh veg, among many other products.
The business is still there despite controversy over the lease of their premises, which have been ear-marked for demolition by landlords Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. During this year’s visitor season directors were given 28 days to put together a business case for a move down to the Co-op site.
Managing director Sarah MacLean said: “The site is half a mile in the wrong direction for tourist traffic, smaller and four times the price. We don’t want to move down there, so instead we have completed an asset transfer request to put the current premises into our own ownership. Now we’ll wait to see what they say.
“Obviously we would like to work with CnES, but if they say no to our request to take ownership of our premises we will go to the Scottish Government. Our location here is crucial – we have too many producers and tourism businesses relying on us, too much at stake.”
Sarah’s view was endorsed recently when the Bùth was listed by Country Life magazine as one of the 22 best village shops in Britain – one of only two in Scotland. Country Life said: “Set up in 2013 to ‘create opportunities for islanders’, this shop stocks more than 80 producers, provides a laundrette, hot drinks and free wi-fi. It’s always open when the Oban ferry docks to assist tourists, ‘whatever time that might be’.”
The accolade has been added to a string of others including winner of the rural business awards social enterprise in 2016 and finalist in 2017’s Scottish social enterprise of the year awards.
As the sixth birthday draws near, a celebratory party is being planned for some time around October 17th, although nothing concrete is yet planned for the occasion. Keep an eye on shop notices for more information nearer the time.
Pictures show the inside of Bùth Bharraigh soon after taking ownership six years ago, and volunteer Tiernan Barry serving a customer in the busy shop this summer (Bùth Bharraigh).