As a reaction to the company shop, and dishonest trading practices in some shops, Blaenavon people worked together and formed co-operatives. These provided members with quality goods and services at a fair price. Blaenavon’s first was founded in 1861 when a co-operative store was opened in Broad Street. These schemes were based on the Rochdale Principles (1844), which included:
- voluntary membership
- democratic control
- dividend (share of the profits)
- the promotion of education
There were a few failed attempts but, by the early 20th century, co-operation was flourishing in Blaenavon. Branches operated around the town, providing members with affordable groceries, furniture, insurance, funeral expenses and even housing schemes.
After two failures in Blaenavon, the gallant Blaenavon men have set co-operation up again... In America, when a store is burnt down, the storekeeper goes round with a basket early in the morning, and picks up all the nails which are not melted; and by breakfast time he has driven them into the planks of a new floor, and commences business again the same night. This is the way with the energetic and invincible Blaenavon men and women, who are buying at the new store with more enthusiasm than ever.
George Holyoake, Co-operative News and Journal of Associated Industry, Vol. 21, No. 20, 17 May 1890