Unicorn is closed for 2 weeks 4-18th April as we begin our build project
Over 24 years we’ve made countless shop improvements, extensions and modifications whilst managing to continue trading (involving some fairly hilarious behind the scenes scrambles and all-nighters). But in April 2021, for the first time ever, we are closing for a fortnight, to allow us to carry out much needed structural, environmental and internal improvements to the building. It’s not been an easy process deciding to do this, but we’ve been putting off some of the work for years and there are jobs we just can’t do whilst staying open.
We are posting regular updates on the build project on instagram and facebook @unicorngrocery.
We are extending the building to give the veg area much needed extra space, and to deal with the produce overheating caused by our glass porch in the summer months.
You may have noticed our flooring has been tatty for a number of years, it is held down with duct tape in places. It is a huge task to replace it – the sub-floor underneath needs major repairs, and all the shelving units have to come out. So we’re taking this opportunity to also replace the shelving (which we built when we moved into this space back in in 2003!) and create a better layout.
We’re really sorry for the disruption, we hope you will be able to plan and shop ahead and bear with us. We are really excited about the project, and hope you’ll all think it’s worth it once it’s done. Work will continue into May, but from the 19th April we will be trading as normal (albeit with a temporary entrance at the other end of the building). We’ll keep you updated here, in the shop and on social media.
What’s the plan?!
Building resilience into our store…. with extra joy and a bit more space to move around in.
We are working with two local companies – architecture co-op Loop Systems and interior architects Phaus Design (both are run by Unicorn customers), and they’ve come up with a plan that is really practical but also visually exciting. We are really looking forward to it!
Extending the veg space and putting some love into the outside area
The design of the new extension reflects the needs of the retail space within, specifically the increased demand for our fruit and veg offer, and alleviating congestion in that area and beyond. In our recent survey, a lot of you talked about how much you’ve enjoyed the experience of a quieter veg area whilst we’ve been limiting numbers during the pandemic – we hope to retain some of that sense of space in the long term. Plus we want to bring as much joy to your shopping trip as we can!
Replacing our very creaky porch entrance, the extension will add over 500sqft (14% of the current sales area) to the retail space, as well as improving customer flow. The design also helps minimise overheating of the veg area during the summer – a really big issue for us – whilst the flat roof will be used to collect “grey water” to flush our staff toilets. The extension will also incorporate a living wall!
Outside, we’re increasing bike parking – some of which will be covered – and installing a permanent bike pump available to all. The timber from the current porch structure will be used to construct a new covered trolley park.
Covid has played its part in informing the design too, with the new extension including a covered external area in case of queues, and greater space for customers on entrance and exit.
Refreshing the shop
We’ve taken this opportunity to have a bigger think about how the shop floor works and looks. We’re moving things around in the deli and bakery section, and replacing all of our shelving in a way that improves customer flow and gives us the flexibility to evolve the store with more “unpacked” (zero packaging) goods in the future. Lighting and ventilation will be upgraded – with that all-important natural light coming in through glazed sections of roofing and large circular light tubes. There will also be the bold use of colour you will associate with Unicorn throughout the ages! Floor-wise, we’re replacing the existing linoleum with more of this traditional, ecological flooring option. Unlike vinyl – which often sneakily goes by the name of lino – traditional linoleum is made with natural materials like linseed oil instead of petrochemicals, and is both recyclable and biodegradable at the end of its life.
Stewarding Unicorn for the future
As stewards of a worker co-op, long-term resilience to deliver on our Principles of Purpose is a big part of our job. Got to look after the place for the future Unicorners! We are generally pretty frugal, putting a little profit away every year to invest back into the business. The planned work is a very visual and practical example of that reinvestment.
“As regular customers and local residents, working with Unicorn is such a privilege and a pleasure as it’s pretty close to our hearts. This isn’t about a radical rethink but an evolved better version of itself that delivers that familiar joyful feeling, in a well-functioning store for both customers and co-operative members, with sustainability at the forefront.” – Heather Allen (Phaus Design)
We hope you are as excited as we are about the plans and we can’t wait to see them become a reality.