Colum Beagan, Roger Kelly and Paul Hayes, three members of Penicuik Community Development Trust, have been developing the Storehouse project in 2014 and 2015. Here’s some of the back story of how it came about.

Since it formed in 2005 the Penicuik Trust has looked for all sorts of ways to regenerate Penicuik Town Centre. To meet the strong public demand to safeguard the future of the Town Hall, the Trust devised volunteer projects to use it every single week for public meetings and events (Saturday Open House, exhibitions, Penicuik Sunday Cinema).

By 2012 the Trust began an ambitious new 50 year project: to harness public enthusiasm to restore the Lost Garden of Penicuik to full production as a supplier of fresh local food. It was a busy time. In the same month The Trust promoted discussion of Town Centre regeneration with a public exhibition in February 2012: . People wanted action not words so the Trust gathered its members’ resources to take over the Pen-y-coe Press, a well-loved stationery and printing shop in the town centre whose owners were retiring and which would otherwise have closed. This has since traded successfully and helped to pay for its own restoration. 

With the support of their teachers, the Trust that year engaged all the third year students of Mackintosh School of Architecture in an inspiring ideas project to bring life to Town Centre streets and arranged a big High Street exhibition above Lamb’s Pend of all their drawings in the town centre in 2013: At the end of 2013 the Trust was awarded Social Enterprise of the Year Midlothian and hosted a Town Centre improvement workshop with the Climate Challenge Fund and Greenspace Scotland.

After taking part in Penicuik’s Neighbourhood planning process, when over 2000 local residents had their say, the Trust took steps to promote the Penicuik First Business Improvement District in the Town Centre. This was approved by traders’ ballot  The Trust’s notes on Penicuik’s unique history went to every trader and household in the town and was used for tourists and visitors in shops and hotels. The Penicuik First BID success meant we could bring in the outdoor market we’d planned for years. It was an instant success. The Trust and Penicuik First now hope to start a proper town centre improvement with the Council and Historic Scotland, like the projects they’ve already begun in Dalkeith and Gorebridge.

Meanwhile, looking first at the empty PeniDeli premises in the High Street, Colum Began began to put together ideas for a “good-quality-at-fair-prices” local foodstore in the heart of Penicuik, with a traditional bakery like the old Fells within it and taking in the Valleyfield House Saturday morning foodmarket which Roger Kelly and volunteers had run since 1990.

When the Trust’s Paul Hayes joined the team the lease of the big old Penicuik Co-op foodstore premises (Nickel and Dime) came on the market and the Storehouse idea was born. Now the bakery and café could operate in part of the shop window just like Breadshare in Portobello, the foodmarket could be behind, and there was space for a Lost Garden Foodhall and indoor Market Stalls like the ones which had proved so popular with the public at the Penicuik First Friday Market.  

Even more exciting was the long-awaited chance to consider using the extensive upper floor space for a social solidarity “Beyond Foodbanks” Community Shop like the ones run in Barnsley and London. This training and shop combination, run so inspiringly by Company Shop with the agreement and trust of almost all the major food retailers and manufacturers, tackles both food poverty and food waste at the same time. See the customers and staff video here and the suppliers& food waste video here  It was clearly something that Penicuik (with three foodbanks operating) badly needed.

To run all of this, we registered the Penicuik Community Alliance as a new co-operative community benefit society in August 2015 to create this great new local asset. We’ve been preparing for a public share issue.

It’s where you come in.