In April, Rainbow Wholefoods in Norwich – one of the UK’s longest established wholefood shops – was devastated by fire.
Thought to have been caused by a faulty compressor motor in a freezer, the fire was brought under control by Norwich Fire Service before it was able to spread to adjoining buildings, but not before it destroyed the interior of the health store, housed in a listed former fire station stables.
Richard Austin, founder of Rainbow, says: “For a couple of days we were in complete shock. I started the project in 1976 and it has been a labour of many people’s love since that time. To see everything ruined was a devastating experience.”
The process took all of us doing the best that we could, and then a little more, but we got there. We have been open for four weeks now and the public have located us and let us know how grateful they are to see us back up and running
After learning that it would take months to refurbish the premises, Austin and his team searched for an empty shop to open as a pop-up until the original store could be refurbished, and were finally able to secure the lease to an old record shop.
“By this time we had been closed for a month and were desperate to get moving,” says Austin. “We painted, fitted shelving, tills, computers, counters and fridges, and set out 12 pallets of stock on the shelves. On the sixth day after signing we re-opened to the public.”
“The shop looks great,” adds Austin. “The process took all of us doing the best that we could, and then a little more, but we got there. We have been open for four weeks now and the public have located us and let us know how grateful they are to see us back up and running.”
During the time the store was closed the team was helped by neighbouring traders who provided practical support as well as a never ending supply of tea and cakes. “Our friends and customers were no less generous, keeping up constant messages, offers of help and good wishes online. Suppliers too were very good to us. I’m not sure if we would have managed to make it through without all of this help.”