Sometimes the recipe for success is a combination of the most unexpected ingredients. For Nourished Communities, an Islington-based grocery store, workshop and community space, the list included a global pandemic, independent farming, an innovative idea, an energetic team and a genuine love for human connection. This crisp article by Astrid Wihman explores the journey that made Nourished Communities one of the favourite places of North London locals.note from the editor
Meet Rollo Millership
It’s a cloudy March Wednesday when I arrive at Nourished Communities. On first impression, the store is not quite what I expect: paint is being scraped off walls, furniture is strewn about, and no food products are in sight. However, Rollo Millership (the store owner) informs me that the chaos is no coincidence: the team is in the process of opening a new shop on Islington’s Upper Street, around the corner from their previous Canonbury location.
I am told that the team is only three days into a two-week renovation process. Despite the work ahead, it is clear that Rollo is excited about what is to come. He guides me through the rooms, explaining his vision for the finished shop: a store with a deli-like ambience, yellow walls, and hidden corners for having a drink. I can’t help but share in his excitement as he talks and make a mental note to pop by once the new store is open.
Planting the seeds
Surprisingly, it was the onset of COVID-19 which brought Nourished Communities to life. Amidst total lockdowns, one of the farms Rollo had previously worked with got in touch with him. The farm was unable to sell its goods at its usual spot in Chapel Market and needed assistance with online distribution. “People were panicking,” he recalls, “people were genuinely scared.” And so, Nourished Communities’ veg boxes were born. These were boxes with seasonal fruits and vegetables that went for delivery all across London. Initially operating out of a friend’s pub (the Sekforde, for those curious), the service continued to grow in popularity, setting the stage for what Nourished Communities would later become.
A community-driven business
At the core of this initiative is a clear focus on neighbourhood life. In addition to engaging with small producers across the UK, Rollo also has a strong focus on building relationships with local businesses. Rollo describes this approach to business as “unorthodox” but believes that it is a key reason for his success. “If they grow, we grow,” he laughs.
One of the things the team is most proud of, says Rollo, is the public’s response to the store. He adds: “We are becoming a facilitator for different people – it’s funny because people tend to talk to one another because they shop with us. British people are funny, because they often need an excuse to talk to someone. In our store, people will engage with each other because they’re in the same space. It’s always nice to see.”
When we start using our stores as platforms for people to do things, people start to believe in doing things beyond that – and that’s really cool to be part of.Rollo Millership, founder of Nourished Communities
A new beginning
A few weeks later, I find myself at the new shop. Despite the speedy renovation, the new Nourished Communities looks exactly how Rollo had described it on my first visit. The bright yellow walls indeed create a welcoming atmosphere, and carefully curated food products sit neatly stacked on sleek shelves. I buy myself some chocolate and chipotle-spiced salsa and leave the store feeling that I’m somehow part of a nourished community. I resolve to return as soon as I can.
If you’re interested in learning more about Nourished Communities, make sure to check out their website and subscribe to their newsletter. You can also stay up to date through their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Writing and photography by Astrid Wihman