Everything’s coming up roses for Portfolio Award winner Bishopwearmouth Co-operative

Bishopwearmouth Co-operative's Nicola McDonald and Shaun Donnelly with their team
Bishopwearmouth Co-operative's Nicola McDonald and Shaun Donnelly with their team

A Sunderland Echo Portfolio award winner is set to blossom after a successful financial year.

Bishopwearmouth Co-operative, which is based on Chester Road, and provides employment opportunities for adults with disabilities, scooped our Social Enterprise award at last year’s presentation evening.

We’ll be looking to recruit six members of staff to form our catering team as well as 10 disabled members of staff who would like an opportunity in catering.

Shaun Donnelly

Now it has struck a deal with Sunderland City Council to acquire a listed building that is situated next-door to the garden centre.

The business, which has been supported by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), converted into a co-operative company in 2016 and delivers a wide range of professional horticultural and floristry services to customers across the North East.

Transforming the newly-acquired building into a tea room, which should be open by the spring, will allow the business to add catering to its existing list of services.

Managing Director Shaun Donnelly said: “The expansion will not only create employment opportunities for disabled members of the community but will also improve our customers overall experience.

“Everybody wants convenience these days and as a retailer we are keen to offer new services. The tearoom will see us provide food, cakes, teas and coffees to our customers; it’ll be ideal for people who want to sit down and have something to eat before or after they’ve been shopping in the garden centre.

“It has been a really successful year for us, we’ve exceeded our income forecasts and footfall within the garden centre continues to rise, so the tea room is a key factor in our growth.

“We’ll be looking to recruit six members of staff to form our catering team as well as 10 disabled members of staff who would like an opportunity in catering.

“Being able to provide these opportunities is a way of giving back to the community and we’re very proud to be able to provide the service we do.”

Bishopwearmouth Co-operative’s growth has been continuously supported by the North East BIC’s Social Enterprise Manager, Kevin Marquis, and Social Enterprise Adviser, Ernest Dodds.

“We wouldn’t be where we are now without Kevin and Ernest’s support,” said Shaun.

“Kevin helped us understand our community goals and made sure all of our plans and policies were in place and Ernest provided us with vital financial support.”