East of England Co-op closing flagship Darsham Hamper store in Suffolk after four years

The Darsham Hamper store opened with a fanfare four years ago. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Darsham Hamper store opened with a fanfare four years ago. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A pioneering new Co-op store and cafe that opened in the Suffolk countryside four years ago is shutting its doors for the last time on Saturday

The Darsham Hamper store specialises in selling locally-produced food and includes a cafe just off the A12 opposite the A144 junction for Halesworth.

It was originally built as a Happy Eater restaurant in the 1980s and had been transport cafe before the Co-op took it over.

However there are few homes nearby – and in a letter sent to Co-op members the East of England Co-op chief executive for retail Roger Grosvenor said the branch had struggled to be profitable.

A spokeswoman for the East of England Co-op, said no staff would lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

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She said: “I can confirm that following very careful consideration and consultation with our colleagues, we are permanently closing Darsham Hamper and Cafe on Saturday 8 September.

“As a member-owned business, we have to balance the needs of individual communities and stores with the need to provide value for our members and build a strong future.

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“Unfortunately this store has struggled to make a sustained, positive contribution to our business.

“This is no reflection on our colleagues, who we know provide great service to our members and customers. All colleagues have been offered redeployment within the business.”

The store opened in April 2014 with the Co-op describing it as a “bold new venture” aimed at combining a farmers’ market with a traditional retailer.

But while it could be busy on summer weekends with families calling in on their way to or from the Suffolk coast, it never built up a regular loyal clientele.

And since it opened the East of England Co-op has put in more locally-sourced products into its grocery stores across the region and has taken over the former Budgens store in the heart of Woodbridge which is proving very busy.

The future of the building has not yet been decided – it is prominent on a fast section of road, but its relatively isolated location may mean it is seen as a challenge for potential retail or catering businesses looking for a potential site.

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