Eclectic mix of Sheffield businesses make shipping containers their home

Krynkl in Shalesmoor.
Krynkl in Shalesmoor.
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Unique is a word used far too often to describe things that are simply rare or unusual.

But in the case of Krynkl, Sheffield’s newly-opened shipping container development, it is a label that could well apply - in South Yorkshire at least.

A restaurant, an art gallery, a barber shop and a gym are among the businesses to have taken up space in the striking grey building off Shalesmoor.

Built entirely of the metal containers more often seen stacked high on the back of huge cargo ships, Krynkl is a surprisingly flexible space. But its pioneering nature has resulted in a number of setbacks during construction, pushing the opening date back from summer 2016, to November, then December, and finally January.

Several businesses are now open though, and the rest are likely to follow shortly. Visitors are already enjoying a meal in Joro, the highly anticipated restaurant, or getting a trim at Bunker Hair Shelter.

The project has been led by Tim Bottrill, director of Fearnie Greaves, and David Cross, of Coda Studios.

The team at Joro, from left, Bryn Lovell, Blake Cooper, Rob Myers, Kimbal McCann-Lilley and Luke French.

The team at Joro, from left, Bryn Lovell, Blake Cooper, Rob Myers, Kimbal McCann-Lilley and Luke French.

“It’s not a normal building,” admits Tim, sat at a table in Joro.

“Things like fire and building regulations - they don’t fit in the slot because it’s not normal.

“Things like structural engineering. People said they wouldn’t stack up. But they go on the back of a boat up to 30 or 40 feet high.

“How long will they last? Well there are some floating around the pacific ocean still.

Celina Ploskonka and Laura Thomas of Freshly Squeezed.

Celina Ploskonka and Laura Thomas of Freshly Squeezed.

“We needed sprinklers and as it’s worked out, they look quite good. But they cost another £20,000.

“But we are there, and everyone has been massively understanding.”

Intrigue around Krynkl has been increasing in Sheffield since the project was first announced in summer 2015. A strong social media campaign - backed by the various tenants as they confirmed their slots - helped boost interest as construction stalled.

“The whole thing has been very much social media oriented,” said Tim. “We launched it on social media and it just took off. It just catches people’s attention.

Tim Bottrill.

Tim Bottrill.

“We launched the Facebook page on Wednesday and got 270 likes in the first day.

“What we have found is that as the businesses open the social media they put out amplifies it. That will just grow and grow.

“Redbrick (estate agent), who are all set up, will push it. Trib3 (gym) will start doing it. And then you get that multiplication effect.”

The communal effect Tim refers to is clear even at this early stage. Though half the units are not yet open, firms are already familiar with each other, and cross-promoting on social media.

Acting as an incubator for these businesses, most of which are just starting out, was a key aim for the project.

Tim said: “While Krynkl should be an entity in its own right, its also a platform for other businesses, which is why we have been very keen to get young businesses in here.

Bob Phaff of Zig Zag Coffee.

Bob Phaff of Zig Zag Coffee.

“If in two years a business says they are moving, we will help them pack, because we want them to go on and flourish. And then we have an ambassador out there.

“With this we have to keep that momentum going because we know full well we will get a unit back in six or 12 months.

“It’s a modern was of looking at things. Each business here has its own page on the Krynkl website. We want people to work together.

“We have a Whatsapp group with everyone involved. Some really good stuff has come out of it.”

Its location on the edge of Kelham Island puts Krynkl in an area undergoing a mass transformation. The Kelham Island housing development is adding modern homes, and plenty of office space is being created in former industrial buildings.

“There’s an eclectic mixture here and for people like the art gallery that works really well. It’s exposure to a much bigger market.

Kelham Island is finally reaching its potential. It has always sounded a lot better than it is when you get here. There are some brilliant things down here, but a lot of scraggly buildings knocking about.

“Now with this and the Little Kelham housing development, it’s very much past that tipping point. The end is in sight for Little Kelham. The houses and flats are brilliant. There is Cornish Works opposite.

“But the more the merrier in terms of business. The more commercial space we can create, the better. People are finally taking that plunge.”

One of the most talked about Krynkl tenants is Joro, the restaurant run by chef Luke French, which opened just before Christmas. Inspired by nature, the hyper-seasonal food has already proved popular at various pop-up events around the city.

Luke said: “We had been doing pop-ups here and there for the past nine months before we got in here. We have been out foraging and doing our thing. It’s the DNA of what we are about.

“We now have a demographic coming in, which is good. It’s young foodie people and those who are just curious and want something different, but also older people with money to spend on something decent.”

Luke admits he was sceptical about Krynkl.

“I wasn’t keen when I first heard the idea. But now we are in, it’s excellent,” he said.

“You don’t feel like you are sat on the back of a lorry. It’s what you do with the space.

“The style of the food is very natural. It reflects the seven hills we are sat in the middle of.

“Doing that in a shipping containers is a bit of a clash. But it’s a great opportunity to build a unique restaurant.”

The small, narrow spaces at Krynkl may not be suitable for all businesses. But for Bob Phaff, who runs Zig Zag Coffee, it’s perfect.

“In this space I am roasting the coffee for retail and also for cafes and restaurants. It will be a shop feeling here.

“I had been brewing beer for the last decade. For the last couple of years I was working for a local brewery, and they set up a coffee roasting side. I was looking for a space that was small enough and would suit my plan.

“This was perfect for me. I knew I needed a unit with a shop front but also somewhere with production.

“I wasn’t looking at a run down industrial estate where people would never come. But a shop front was a bit too pricey.”

Laura Thomas secured a space at Krynkl for her Freshly Squeezed events company by winning competition. As a result, she has the first year rent-free.

“My business partner Celina and I have never worked from the same place in two years of being in business,” she said.

“It makes things a lot easier than doing everything online. It also gives you somewhere to bring clients. It’s a pretty cool place for that. They are really impressed with it, which is great.”

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