Mayor officially opens not-for-profit community shop

Rek 41 has opened a not-for-profit community convenience store in Birkenhead to help those who are struggling during the cost of living crisis and beyond.

The new shop was officially opened by the Mayor of Wirral, Cllr Jerry Williams, on Saturday and is based on Hamilton Street, just a few doors down from the Rek 41 no-alcohol social hub. The store is open to anyone and any profits are reinvested into the local community.

The store uses a slightly different method of keeping its shelves stocked compared to similar outlets. It buys all of its stock from a cash-and-carry but keeps the price mark-up as low as possible to pass on savings to its customers.

On officially opening the new shop, the mayor told Birkenhead News, “I’m just delighted to be here this morning for the opening of this not-for-profit community shop.” He said the initiative will have “a big impact at the heart of the community”.

Wirral Mayor, Cllr Jerry Williams, speaks to the team at the shop

Outside the new shop, Rob Cumine, co-founder of Rek 41 told us, “We already have a non-alcoholic, social hub that works with people who are struggling with addiction and mental health issues.” He said that it was a “community-based response” to the challenges that people encounter. “It’s influenced by one of our slogans – ‘built by the community for the community’,” he said.

Rob said that one of the biggest worries that people have is feeling anxious about having enough money for their next meal. “We looked at the image of social supermarkets that sell items that are not wanted by other people.”

“We felt that that doesn’t treat people with the respect that they deserve. And if you treat people like they’re not human, then what what opportunities do they have to feel like they can be a valuable part of the community?”, he explained.

Acknowledging the invaluable work other groups and agencies put in, he said there were some “little bits of gaps” in the service that they are trying to fill.

With this in mind, they decided to open the shop and make it not-for-profit, enabling them to keep prices as low as possible. Any profit made is directly reinvested in the community. Rob said, “We’ve just recently run a food parcel delivery… so if someone wasn’t to get paid their wages or something went wrong with their benefits, we were able to deliver [food parcels] to their houses.”

The mayor with the team and supporters outside the new shop

Michael Henry splits his time between working at the shop and at the social hub. He previously struggled with substance misuse “for many, many years” and had assistance from various agencies and community groups to help him get where he is today. “I now feel compelled to ‘give back’ to try and make reparation for any harm I did, for anything I took out of the community.”

He said, “We don’t require people to register to shop here. We have staff coming over from Magenta Living and from the University of Chester building and students as well. Anyone is welcome! I’m passionate about what we do here at Rek 41, particularly with the cost of living crisis we’re all in.”

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