Britain’s first community chip shop looks to KFC for divine inspiration

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Britain’s first community chip shop – which closed after just two weeks of trading – could be feeling chipper again by mid-April.

After the original manager left a fortnight after opening, interviews are being held this week in a bid to find a new frier and a deputy at the same time.

Other staff are still being paid even though the chippy is not currently trading.

The £120,000 shop in Chelmsley Wood opened with a blaze of publicity at 4pm on Thursday, March 1.

The event went ahead on time even though the first excited customers had to brave an Arctic-style blizzard as they queued up outside for an hour next to the exposed A452.

Rev Neil Roberts at Chelmund’s Fish & Chips
(Image: Graham Young)

We broadcast the opening as it happened via Facebook Live, while the BBC’s One Show were also filming for a feature screened on national TV the following week.

All seemed to be going well in the ensuing days with regular queues and mostly positive comments from local customers on social media.

But when the original frier decided the job wasn’t for him after returning to the trade following a ten-year break, the backers of the community enterprise felt they had no option but to shut down and start again.

The Rev Neil Roberts from Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church said on opening day: “Four organisations have come together after we thought someone’s bound to open a chippy here, why not us?”

Noting how the country’s leading fried chicken chain had recently had to close many shops for days following a change of supplier, the Rev Roberts said today: “If KFC can cope with its logistics issues, then we can get away (with closing our shop) once.”

Opening day at Chelmund's Fish & Chips
Opening day at Chelmund’s Fish & Chips
(Image: Darren Quinton)

Birmingham Live reported on March 22 that the business had had to shut after just two weeks.

Looking forwards again, the Rev Roberts said today: “We are holding interviews for a replacement frier and deputy on Wednesday, March 28.

“It’s frustrating that the previous manager left before we had a deputy, but he said the hours weren’t right for him and that was it.

The opening shift at Chelmund's Fish & Chips
The opening shift at Chelmund’s Fish & Chips
(Image: Darren Quinton)

“So we closed because we didn’t want to be open and not know what we were doing.”

The Baptist Minister said most local people had been very happy with Chelmund’s – the only problem had been having to replace one ‘bad batch’ of potatoes.

“There were no real issues over quality,” added the Rev Roberts.

People queuing in blizzard conditions on the day the shop opened - view from inside the shop
People queuing in blizzard conditions on the day the shop opened – view from inside the shop
(Image: Graham Young)

“We could have had interim cover, but we weren’t happy they were confident enough to maintain the right standard.

“Despite what has happened, there is a great sense of (the closure) bringing us all together.”

What is Chelmund’s Fish & Chips?

Chelmund’s Fish and Chips
(Image: Darren Quinton)

The brand new shop is part of a neighbourhood redevelopment scheme with a Co-operative supermarket at its heart.

Chelmund’s original frier used to work at the Craig Croft Chip Shop on the same site before it was demolished and saw the new shop as a golden opportunity to return to the trade after ten years away.

Plans for the replacement chippy, thought to have a catchment of 15,000 people, were two years in the making.

Among the first in the queue at Chelmund's Fish & Chips
Among the first in the queue at Chelmund’s Fish & Chips
(Image: Darren Quinton)

They involved a local church, community centre and kitchen banding together.

The idea was that staff would be paid competitive wages, but for all profits to go back into community projects.

How the business plan works is illustrated on a blackboard on the wall.

Above it, some simple local memorabilia.

The enterprise had funding help from North Solihull Partnership, social investment fund CAF Venturesome and ART Business Loans which specialises in community finance.

Hot pies at Chelmund's Fish & Chips
Hot pies at Chelmund’s Fish & Chips
(Image: Darren…

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