Shopping for big box items in Sheffield

  • In a former life they were shipping containers, but Daniel Dylan Wray finds out how Krynkl is bringing a new type of shopping and leisure experience to Sheffield.
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A few years ago, shipping containers did exactly what their name suggested and nothing more. However, recently they have been turned into pop-up shopping and eating destinations, with the latest appearing in the Kelham Island/Shalesmoor area of Sheffield. Krynkl is the brainchild of Coda Studios and property agents Fernie Greaves and inside the industrial units are an array of businesses from ZigZag coffee roasters to the massage clinic Knots ’n’ Niggle as start-up and independent ventures cosy up side by side.

Whilst the project is a first for Sheffield, it’s becoming a more common practice across the world and within the UK – another similar site is planned for York – for reasons that range from aesthetic to economic and environmental.

Luke French in Joro. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Luke French in Joro. Picture: Scott Merrylees

South London has seen Pop Brixton, a temporary shipping container community of food, retail and design businesses, and York has recently announced a shipping container project, or “box park”, for its city centre that will house cafes, shops and community projects.

“The shipping container thing is a very popular concept, particularly outside of Sheffield,” says Fernie Greaves director Tim Botrill. “There’s a box park in Dubai that’s more than a mile long with people living in them. It’s a construction method that people are very interested in at the moment – there’s an element of sustainability about it.”

The novel construct has triggered widespread interest in Sheffield despite it being fully operational for only a matter of weeks.

“Krynkl has had more enquiries and more coverage than any other property we are currently dealing with. It’s had more interest than a lot of them combined. It’s caught people’s imagination because it’s interesting, it’s different, and it’s very now,” adds Botrill.

James and Luke Cottingham of Alexander Joshua. Picture: Scott Merrylees

James and Luke Cottingham of Alexander Joshua. Picture: Scott Merrylees

The development has not been without its setbacks though, with Krynkl arriving almost a year later than planned. “Doing something new always presents challenges,” says Botrill. “The structural engineering was a very complicated thing. You have to start from scratch.”

However, before it even opened Krynkl had three tenants who had committed to be based there: the bootcamp-style gym TRIB3, hairdressers the Bunker and the Milestone Group, which also runs the Milestone, Craft & Dough and the Wig & Pen in Sheffield. The rest all came from the flurry of social media activity once the project began to take shape.

The Milestone Group has taken the bottom and top floor with its rooftop bar, INC, and Scandinavian-influenced restaurant Jöro (which translates as “a meal built of many small plates”).

It’s these two businesses that are arguably Krynkl’s flagship enterprises. The hard, rippled metal exterior of the building and busy traffic on the adjacent main road are soon forgotten once inside the immediately cosy and warm Jöro as Milestone Group operations manager Stacey Freeman and head chef Luke French discuss their new venture. “It’s been busy beyond expectation,” Freeman says with a smile. “After Christmas, eating and drinking can sometimes take a bit of a dip but we didn’t see it. The weekends really started to fill up and Saturdays are fully booked for the next six to eight weeks.

George Grayson of Trib3.

George Grayson of Trib3.

“The restaurant focuses on hyper-seasonal ingredients served in small plates. I sometimes get quite bored with a plate of food that is very samey. When we go out for food we like to challenge our taste buds or our perceptions of what things should taste like.”

The restaurant shuts on Sundays and Mondays so that all staff have the same days off in order to maintain quality and consistency in what they produce. However, what you can expect to find on the menu will vary week to week, as French explains. “Most of the dishes are born on a Tuesday. We have a vegetable grower called Ken Holland up near Newcastle and he grows lots of heritage varieties of vegetables. He uses seaweed in his soil to help fertilise the plants and they taste amazing.

“We get some really unusual things from him that you can’t get elsewhere. He literally sends us a 25kg box that arrives via courier between 9.30 and 10.30 on a Tuesday morning. We don’t know what’s inside the box until we lift up the lid. Then what’s in that box pretty much determines what goes on the menu until it’s gone.”

It’s a liberating and challenging operation that instils a lot of fun in the kitchen. Dishes concocted so far have included BBQ pork loin, crispy belly with apple and verbena sauce; roe deer, blackcurrant and parsnip; and equally inventive desserts, such as Granny Smith sorbet with cider caramel or chewy Seville orange ice cream with fennel sherbet and tarragon.

Jöro’s biggest seller is the simple but much- adored bowl of peas with ham and garlic. The aim, according to Freeman, is to offer very relaxed dining with exceptional food.

“We don’t want to be perceived as fine dining. We want to keep it quite relaxed. You’ll see there’s no white tablecloths, there’s nobody walking around in suits or anything like that.”

“It’s a super chilled-out atmosphere with really laidback staff. We wanted to create an environment that we like to eat in when we’re out ourselves,”

At the top of the building, INC offers panoramic views of the city and is fitted with a variety of sofas and open fires to make it a hospitable environment in both winter and summer.

Two units remain empty in Krynkl – one is to be another Milestone venture, in the form of a coffee shop, and the other is set to be an independent chocolate maker.

Krynkl also offers one unit free of charge for 12 months, which is up for grabs for any start-up businesses wishing to apply. The current tenants are Freshly Squeezed, an events management company operating alongside the mini art gallery TVR and fashion designer Alexander Joshua.

“The exciting bit about it is things seem to have got really collaborative down there – everybody is working together,” says Botrill. “We have some stuff that’s open late at night, some early morning, some evening – so it’s not quite a 24/7 operation but it’s probably an 18/7 operation.”

Botrill also feels a bit of a revolving door policy will lead to excitement and interest remaining high. “Krynkl will be a constantly evolving thing. We’re not going to build any more units on top…well it’s unlikely. We’ll always have a rotating roster of tenants. Next year we’ll have a new start-up initiative in there. I hope that people use Krynkl and then move into a bigger unit after becoming successful. Ultimately, the tenants will always dictate how Krynkl feels.”

Such has been the rapid success and interest in Krynkl and its concept that Botrill says the search is now on for sites to become Krynkl 2. “It’s definitely on the cards,” he says. “Just watch this space.”