August 2021 update: After some (inevitable?!) delays, we have now opened our lovely new extension and entrance way, and are very excited to welcome you in!!
There is still work to be done – the living wall and associated grey water system in the entrance, new bike parking, some interior shelving and decoration. But the work is now largely complete, and there’s no disruption to trading.
Spring 2021 saw us beginning an extension at the front of the shop, involving the demolition of the current entrance structure and part of the veg space. We are extending the building to give fruit & veg much-needed extra room, and to deal with produce overheating caused by our glass porch in the summer months.
We are also:
- replacing our worn and damaged flooring
- carrying out major repairs to the sub-floor underneath
- replacing all our shelving units (built in 2003!)
- replacing and improving lighting
- improving shop layout
- increasing bike parking
Our 2 week close in early April saw much of the internal work completed, and the old entrance area demolished, but that was only the start. The builders are now working on the extension (largely working overnight), and the team are finishing off the shop furniture and lighting. Whilst the extension is being built, (late April to August), there is a temporary entrance at the far end of our garden on Manchester Rd.
We’re sorry for the disruption, we hope you will be able to bear with us. We are really excited about the project, and hope you’ll all think it’s worth it once it’s done.
We are posting regular updates on the build project on instagram and facebook @unicorngrocery.
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.