Recently, Duncan Borthwick, owner of Llanymynech Village Shop, posted on social media that the shop was aiming to reduce single use plastic. We wanted to find out more…
We started by asking Duncan to explain how he’s currently reducing plastic in the shop.
“It is incredibly difficult to reduce plastic use when all of our food is entirely covered in it,” he said.
“But we are reducing where we can. Some brands have reduced plastic or cut plastic entirely, so we try and stock those where we can. We no longer sell baby wipes with plastic in them. We only stock cotton buds, disposable cutlery, cups, plates, pegs etc that are either wood or paper/card. We use paper bags for our fruit and vegetables, and for our hot pies. We have moved our homemade sandwich containers to biodegradable cardboard with cellulose film windows.”
And plans for future initiatives are no less ambitious, as Duncan explains: “We are switching (as it sells out) to cards and wrapping paper that are completely recyclable – so no glitter, no foil, no plastic.
“We already stock bird seed and bird food where you weigh it out yourself, rather than buy it ‘ready to go’ in plastic – so you can bring your own container to refill. I am also looking at refills for basic household commodities and foodstuffs.
“As an environmental factor, we no longer turn the lights on in our fridges and freezers, and any food that is unsold/at date is reduced or given away.
“We are exploring alternatives to padded envelopes and bubble wrap on the Post Office side, but some of the alternatives are cost-prohibitive for the customer so the search continues for alternatives. I believe we can all do our bit – however small.”
Many readers will know that Duncan is much more than a ‘local shopkeeper’ – with a passion for the local community.
“Llanymynech and Pant have always welcomed me,” he says.
“I love the sense of community here. I am heavily involved in the local community and try to get involved whenever I am free. (Keep your ears to the ground for some imminent events!). We have a diverse vibrant community, boosted in season by the multitude of tourists we have passing through.”
Duncan hasn’t always lived in Llanymynech although his roots are very much local. He grew up at Lake Vyrnwy so has always lived around here, apart from a brief spell after university in Lancaster, where he owned a pub.
12 years ago, after a serious spinal illness, which left him unable to walk properly and in and out of a wheelchair, he got a job at the shop where he worked for the previous owners for almost ten years.
When they decided to retire, and rather than see one of the last local independents fall to a chain, or close completely, he decided to take over and run it.
Since taking over, two years ago, it hasn’t been the easiest of rides.
“Almost as soon as I took over,” says Duncan “the post-COVID and post-Brexit effects hit quite badly, imports and exports were affected, the war in Ukraine started which triggered price rises across the board with ingredients, packaging, energy. And then the cost-of-living crisis hit like a ton of bricks and continues to bite.”
Duncan believes local stores can offer an affordable option for shopping, especially if you add bus fares, fuel or delivery chanrges into the cost of your shoppingfrom a big retailer.
“We spend a lot of time (an incredible amount of time) trying to source stock at an affordable price. For several years, stock availability has been an incredibly frustrating part of running a business. As more and more suppliers are bought up by big chains, independents have a very hard time competing. We try and keep prices as low as we can, although that is incredibly hard sometimes. We have made decisions on staffing to try and keep costs low – we have made changes to staff rotas to reduce costs where we can, and this sadly does mean that we mutually let one permanent contract go.”
“I know people must think shop owners must be rolling in it – but I can tell you that’s absolutely not the case. I don’t mind sharing that I forgo wages so as to keep my costs down as far as I can for customers, and keep my current workforce employed. It is a very difficult time, and we are often at the brunt of complaints about prices when it is often completely out of our hands – manufacturers, suppliers, delivery companies all have increased their prices – and there is nothing we can do about this.”
We asked Duncan about his hobbies and interests, when he has any spare time.
“I love gardening – I used to be a seasonal gardener at Powis Castle. I am currently in the process of redesigning my garden. I like spending time with my husband Paul, and our dog Phoebe.
“I don’t get much time off – I currently work around 60-70 hours a week – so we do try and go away if I do manage to get time off. I was seriously ill at the start of the year and we had to postpone our trip to Alaska which was booked about four years ago. Now I can fly, we are taking my Mother-in-Law away in September for a little holiday. I love spending time with family when I can.”
We asked Duncan what his involvement with the local community means to him.
“Community means everything. When a community comes together, it really works. It can be a safe, nurturing, accepting and wholesome place to live. Community means working together to solve problems, support each other and creating a safe and healthy environment for all. We have started a new initiative where we have asked local businesses and crafters to display and sell their work in the shop – for a very small fee. This is going incredibly well. And shows how we can all work together to diversify and support each other.”
Duncan wanted to put on record his thanks for the support of the community during his recent illness, and he says the majority of people understand how the shop is completely at the mercy of suppliers and the supermarkets when it comes to terms of pricing structure and availability.
He says there are concerns for the future of the shop in its current location, due to circumstances beyond the shop’s control that take effect in a couple of years, but says he is working hard to avoid leaving our wonderful village without vital banking, postal and shopping services.
Finally, Duncan said he wanted to say ‘thank you’. “I would also like to thank my staff, currently Louise and Mandy (my mother) for their continued support, without whom I would not have a business and their help is appreciated more than I can ever say.”
So next time you drive past Llanymynech, why not pop in and support the shop?