Successful Sunderland co-op which was a lifeline during lockdown is to set up shop in historic building
and live on Freeview channel 276
The Sunshine Co-operative has worked from its base in The Eagle Building in the East End since 2018 and has since built up a firm following for its organic food boxes, which it delivers across Sunderland, as well as to some Newcastle, Durham and South Tyneside postcodes.
It gives people the chance to have a host of products, from fresh pasta and bread to tea and piccalilli, from local producers, delivered straight to their door.
"We’re all about local food, for local people, from local suppliers. We want to create a thriving community and we’re using health as the unifying factor,” explained project manager Claire Wayman, who is one of four directors of the co-op.
The co-op works with a number of producers, such as Tropical Wholefoods in Sunderland, Acorn Dairy in Darlington, a host of small scale bread makers, Weardale Cheese, Calder’s Kitchen, Davi fresh pasta, Fat Lass Preserves, The Tea Enthusiasts, Vicky’s Clean Kitchen and more.
Customers order before midnight on Sunday for delivery on a Thursday, and it’s a service which proved hugely popular in lockdown.
Claire explained: "We had a huge uptake in lockdown. Because we already had the systems in place, we didn’t have to change the way we did business, we just had to increase the volume. We had incredible support, with volunteers, neighbours and family members, helping us to do deliveries and the customers were so grateful. It was pretty amazing.
"People are starting to understand the impact of what they’re buying and it’s changing consumer behaviour. We’re a CIC, we’re not the type of organisation that’s paying a CEO a huge wage, we have good ethics and morals, and people want to know where their money is going.”
The next chapter for the Sunshine Co-operative will be opening its first shop, at 170 High Street West, just yards away from its current base.
Numbers 170-173 in the street are both in Sunderland's Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), and have been awarded £350,000 through a partnership grant scheme funded by Sunderland City Council and Historic England.
The buildings, which once housed the first ever Binns store, are owned by Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT) and are undergoing major renovation work. Once complete, the buildings will also house Pop Recs.
Claire said: “We want to capture local pounds and keep them in the local economy. We’ve always wanted a physical shop and the work being done there fits with what we do, we’re really excited by the prospect. We want to make it a place for the community, and will be running volunteering schemes to help people on a pathway to employment.”
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help pay for the fit out of the shop, in particular creating a ramp to make it accessible. More than £5,000 has already been raised, with another £6,000 needed. This will then be match funded to fund the necessary work. Those who donate will be added to a membership scheme where they can redeem benefits such as a 10% discount in the shop.
You can donate at spacehive.com/sunshine-community-shop-big-heart