Alston Wholefoods opened as a Social Enterprise in May 1998 in response to local demand for reasonably priced whole foods, fairly traded and organic wherever possible, with the initial capital being lent by an enthusiastic group of local people. The shop first opened at the corner of King’s Arms Lane, eventually moving to the current prime location opposite the Post Office in March 2009. We have always been a workers’ co-operative, with all members having equal voting rights. There are currently nine members, whose ages range from 18 to 75.

Although whole foods remain most important, the range has expanded considerably to meet demand for local products and worldwide regional cookery, including special dietary products. Cheese is a speciality of the shop, stocking more than 40 varieties of local and regional cheeses, made from cows’, goats’ and ewes’ milk. In addition to food, the shop stocks ethical household goods and locally made candles, soaps, tinctures and lotions. The range is very much customer-led, and local people frequently ask the team to source and order hard-to-get products.

Alston Wholefoods is a thriving business and very much an asset to to this town – a community shop in every sense. Visitors to the area are frequently amazed at the range of products on offer, and are pleased at being able to take home a taste of Cumbria or Northumberland, especially as the area’s local produce is of such high quality. There have even been requests to open branches in visitors’ home towns!

Looking down Front Street

Looking down Front Street towards the Market Cross. Alston Wholefoods is on the left.
Photo: Damian Ashley Track, 12 December 2015.


Background photograph: Peter Elliott at