There's nothing Andrew Newton won't do for his local community. His Nisa Local store on a troubled estate in Brierley Hill, Dudley, West Midlands, has been open for just two years, but Andrew has quickly forged close links with the residents.
"This area had a lot problems," he explains. "The store used to be a rough pub with a lot of problems - the council closed it two or three times."
When the pub was closed for the last time, a developer took it over and wanted to create a shop for the community. "When I first walked in two years and seven months ago, the bar was still here, and so was the pool table with cues still on it. It was like people had just finished their last pint and left. I gutted it and set up a website so the community could see it developing."
The tower block council estate has 852 dwellings and a population of 2,500, made up of a mix of young and one-parent families and older people. "I was an outsider coming onto a rough and rundown estate, so I felt I had to bend over backwards to be accepted," he said.
And that he did. He's campaigned for a post box to be installed on the estate, collecting 600 signatures in favour of it; his latest campaign is for a pedestrian crossing in front of the store. Already he has 150 names.
"Before I even signed the agreement I started going to residents' meetings," he says. "I wanted to know what kind of problems I would face and wanted to include locals in the decision over which symbol to go for. Going with Nisa Local was a mutual decision between me and the community.
"I still attend regular meetings to ask how I can help the community," he adds. "At one meeting a year ago, they said the shop was great but it needed to be a bit more open for wheelchairs and buggies, so I took out a whole aisle to create more room and it hasn't affected sales."
Ideas from these meetings have also included selling laundry tokens. "Previously, people could only buy tokens from the town hall but the council has limited opening hours, so I now sell them," he says.
Andrew also offers a dry-cleaning service and gas and electric charge; he accepts milk tokens and supports the council's five-a-day programme by offering a free piece of fruit to children each day until the end of term.
He employs nine members of staff, six of whom live on the estate. "It was important that people working in the shop were from the estate," he says. "I also offer work experience to the local school."
On top of this, Andrew puts up local notices and allows tradesmen to advertise their services on his noticeboard. Customers can also pick up community leaflets provided by the council on subjects such as dealing with debt and family break-ups.
Andrew concludes: "We know ninety-nine out of 100 customers by name and many come in every day. We've got to be the hub of the community here but it will take years and years to get there."

Winners all

Meet our neighbourhood winner Rami Gill of Gill's Convenience Store in Little Heath, Coventry, in the July 28 issue, followed by rural winners Neil & Janet Palmer of Wrenbury Post Office & Village Stores in Wrenbury, Cheshire, in August 25. All three winners have already scooped £250 each and are competing to win a further £1,000 as the overall winner of our Growing with Warburtons competition. Watch this space.