IT HAS been a tough first year for Portsmouth’s popular seafront community shop – but the team behind it have refused to give up.
The Southsea Greenhouse opened in its eye-catching red-and-white striped hut at the beginning of 2011, selling home-grown fruit, vegetables and plants next to South Parade Pier.
But after battling rising costs, a double-dip recession and the temperamental British weather, its future has been far from secure.
A venture with a difference, the founders of the store decided to run it as a co-operative, offering growers in the area the chance to sell produce and locally made crafts.
Entirely set up and run by volunteers, the greenhouse was forced to give up its hut earlier this year when the rent became too much.
But founder Sue Stokes said she is optimistic about the future and their co-operative has just held its first-ever annual meeting.
‘It hasn’t been easy,’ she said. ‘The weather has been disgusting, absolutely atrocious. That has been our biggest challenge.
‘But a lot of people know what we are about now. They know all about how we work.
‘We are not using the little shack we were in any more because it was too expensive to continue there.
‘It has been a challenge but we have just about broken even in the past year, despite the recession and the weather. We now have 65 members and 15 on the committee.’
Moving from a former Southsea Castle pay booth to inside the Pyramids Centre, Sue said the fledgling social enterprise is always looking for new members. She said: ‘What we need are people who are people who are passionate about things being made in Portsmouth.
‘All the things people have come and bought from us are made here or very close by. And any money we make will all stay in the city because it will all be reinvested.’
She added that one of her goals had been to try and bring a bustling, European-feeling to the seafront.
‘We have been building it up,’ she said. ‘At some point in time if we can grow the co-op and a building becomes available I would like to open a flower cafe, and maybe a community garden. That has always been the dream.
‘But when you are trying something new you have to take it in baby steps.’
Visit southseagreenhouse.co.uk for more information about how to get involved.