Way, way back in October ’14, we were contacted by a rather charming lady named Deborah. She sent us an ominous email, explaining how she was setting up a charity project and would we like to be involved. We had a chat, and she sold us this incredible idea of creating a children’s literacy centre inspired by the work of Dave Eggers and 826 Valencia in San Francisco. If you’re not aware of who Dave is or what 826 is, watch this. In summary, 826 Valencia is a writing centre hidden behind a shop for Pirates. Not a cliche joke shop - a real shop for real pirates walking around San Francisco. Since then there’s been many more in the US - Brooklyn Superhero Supply, The Time Travel Mart and many more weird and wonderful centres. The northern version, which we were asked to be a part of was to be in Rotherham, with the shop being an Apothecary for the Magical, called Grimm & Co. At this point we were rubbing our hands together - DREAM BRIEF KLAXON! The only catch - like with all the other centres, they’re created by everyone who comes on board donating their time for free. A big ask for a small studio, but one we couldn’t turn down.
As well as the amazing centres in the US, there’s also one in London - Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. Grimm & Co will sit alongside Hoxton, as part of the Ministry of Stories family. Back in December ’14 we went down to visit the Hoxton shop, and meet everyone involved. Not only does each centre have it’s own shop on the front, it’s a fully functional shop, who’s profit goes back into the running of the centre. Hoxton sell everything for the modern day Monster, from Fang Floss for vampires, to their tinned fear range (A Vague Sense of Unease is a personal favourite).
Grimm and Co is lucky enough to have Jeremy Dyson on their board, best known for writing for The League of Gentlemen, and more recently co-creating the West End play Ghost Stories. He wrote a back story to Grimm and Co, which explains why the shop exists, and who’s responsible for it. Grimm’s founder is a chap called Graham Grimm - a seventh son of a seventh son who had the gift to see magical creatures, and who used his skill to his advantage, by opening an Apothecary to serve them. It originated in 1148 (just before lunch).
We expanded on the personality of Graham and gave him a voice. It was massively important for us to have a vision of who Graham is - how he'd talk, how he'd act and how he'd create his shop. His thrifty-ness set the tone for an ‘up-cycled way of doing things’. One of our most asked questions is, 'what would Graham do.'
In Spring ’15 Deborah secured the property - and she couldn’t have got a better place. The venue is the old Towngate pub in Rotherham, a huge space spreading over 3 floors. What started out as (in our heads at least) a branding job, had become branding, packaging, interior design and exterior signage. Along the way we spotted some incredibly fortunate things, like this image by Roanna Wells of a hand made wand - she’s now Grimm’s main wand-maker. Jack (a.k.a Metal & Dust) has made us some beautiful reclaimed pieces for the shop, and Dave's dad has done some joinery magic.
Since the building was secured, we’ve been helping Deborah and her brilliant team of volunteers to turn an old pub, into the best creative venue the North has seen. It's been a massively challenging project, probably not helped by our desire to second guess our every decision. We've revisited the identity more times than I'd like to remember, and have said 'no' more than 'yes', to many ideas. That said, we wouldn't have it any other way.
If you follow us on Instagram you've probably seen some behind the scenes bits and pieces. We've been careful not to give away too much - there's a fair few surprises up our sleeves. You can keep up to date with all things Grimm on Twitter or Facebook. Website coming soon.
We’re now less than 3 weeks from launch. Grimm & Co will open it’s doors 29th February 2016, 17 months after we started this project, and over 1000 hours of our donated time - we can’t bloody wait!
Crap photos by us. The really good ones by Helena Fletcher, another great person who's donated her time to the project.
Published by: Oliver in Studio