February 11, 2016 - 12 comments

It’s Grimm up North

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.



Deborah with Dave Eggers.


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).



Hoxton Street Monster Supplies


Some of the products on offer at Hoxton.


Impacted Earwax (a.k.a fudge).



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).



Deborah Bullivant & Jeremy Dyson at the June awareness event.


We did a bit of a presentation at the awareness event on our work so far.




One of Grimm's many volunteers.


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.'



Snapshot of our research.


Interior 'up-cycled' inspiration.


Icon sketches on the train back from visiting Hoxton.


Working up the Grimm monogram.


The Grimm (G&co) monogram we created.


Early, unused ideas.


3D render of the slide which will take children from the writing centre on the top floor, back into the shop on the ground floor.


Early, unused ideas.


Drop cap idea sketches.


More sketches.


Drop cap idea - unused.


Woodblock print tests.


Wood-burner tests.


Working on the (bloody massive) window designs.



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.




The old Towngate pub, and soon to be Grimm & Co.


How the Towngate pub looked.


Cosy corner (now something much more exciting).


Upstairs of the Towngate with a pool table on it's side. Obviously.


Taking in the view.


Dave taking a picture of me...


...taking a picture of him. Oh how we laughed.


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.



Early building work - donated by Willmott Dixon.


Plans for downstairs - time kindly donated by our Architect friend Studio Van Hoorebeek.


On-going interior work, using a lot of salvaged pallets.


Some product development - a handmade 'Frog Spawn' soap.


Spent a small fortune on these. Probably used 3x the amount shown here.


Completely un-staged painting shot. Honest! Dave actually decorates like this.


Professional planning as always.


We've become competent scaffolding erectors.


No comment.


One of the volunteers, Lewis an Illustrator from Rotherham.


Working on the Imagination room.


Bestseller for the magical.


The Grimm monogram, wax seal of approval.


There will be lots and lots of bottles.


One of the volunteers, Chris.


More pallets and crates.


Close up of the signage. Created by Jack @ Metal & Dust.


Dave blending into the interior.


Roanna & Deborah talking wands.


Behind the counter.


Close up detail of packaging.


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


Simon Seligman
February 12, 2016 at 11:06 am

This is so inspiring, and beautifully presented. Thank you.

    February 12, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Thanks Simon

Hannah O'Sullivan
February 12, 2016 at 4:25 pm

I really really love this project.

    February 12, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Cheers Hannah — loads more great stuff to come…

Kristian Moors
February 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Nice job!

Steve Heathcote
February 26, 2016 at 9:26 am

Well done chaps. An inspiring level of commitment for a great cause.

Nathaniel Steers
March 8, 2016 at 11:59 am

Great job guys, looks amazing!

March 11, 2016 at 11:12 am

Amazing! What an incredible project- it’s actually given me tingles. Will be along to see it in all its magical unreality.

January 20, 2017 at 11:09 am

Well done chaps. I genuinely can’t wait to see the final result. I was a huge fan of the Brooklyn Superhero store and had forgotten all about it until I came across this on your blog. What a brilliant project for our area!

Leave a Reply