Bebo entrepreneurs fund refurbishment of convenience store in Devon
A multi-million pound project to regenerate a remote Devon village marked another milestone recently with the re-opening of Nisa retailer J.Andrew Shop & Post Office.
The North Devon village of Woolsery owes its recent fame to the US tech millionaires Michael and Xocchi Birch. The couple founded the social networking site Bebo in 2005 and sold it for $850m in 2010.
Since then, they have taken on the unlikely mission of regenerating the once struggling Torridge village of Woolsery with investments in the pub and fish and chip shop before turning attentions to
the convenience store.
Michael has family ties to Woolsery that go back generations with his grandmother born above the village store which his family owned in the 1930’s.
Prior to the transformation, the store was described as 'outdated' and 'cramped.' But since re-opening in April, locals have praised the 'stunning' new look. And with an attractive new entrance, a stylish tiled floor and dark wooden shelving, the redesigned store is an homage to the shop’s historic past and takes inspiration from times gone by, including restoring the original J. Andrew name to its fascia.
The store, which also includes a Post Office branch, sells everyday essentials like bread, milk, tins and biscuits; local products like pasties and sausage rolls; and more luxury items like posh spreads and artisan cakes. Customers are able to buy complete healthy meals, and a broad range of products from Nisa and other local suppliers.
Kaylea Reeves, Operations Manager of J Andrew, admits refurbishing the store to pay tribute to its historic tradition has been a big hit in the local community.
“The building unfortunately was in quite a state of disrepair and therefore the entire building has been refurbished, literally from top to bottom and inside to out,” said Kaylea.
“The shop itself is absolutely beautiful and we are really proud of it. We have taken it back to dark wooden shelves which is how it would have been back when Michael's family owned it previously, it has amazing lighting as well which really highlights the interesting products we carry. We have some super bright crazy artwork in the shop as well which we thought might be controversial but actually everyone seems to love it.
“Our Managing Director Emily Harmon manages all of the restoration and refurbishment projects. She often touches base with Michael and Xochi on the plans and designs so they can feedback and discuss opportunities.”
The store has been a Nisa customer since February 2022 and Kaylea admits the symbol group’s varying options in terms of fascia made a partnership with Nisa a no-brainer.
“We knew that we needed a wholesaler for our core range of products in the shop but wanted to be 100% independent and with our own identity,” added Kaylea.
“What we liked about working with Nisa is that we can do this without the requirement to change our desired branding.
“The great thing about Nisa is that they have good, experienced people in the right positions. Our Retail Development Manager Ashley Griffiths has always been great and easy to get hold off and has helped whenever we have had questions or needed something.
“Kevin Doughty has been super helpful with teaching us the EPoS system and continues to help us maximize reporting and information from it as well. As far as our day-to-day relationship with Nisa, it is pretty straight forward with a good variety of products to choose from, and Nisa do not often have items out of stock.”