The Crunchy Carrot has been a fixture on Dunbar’s High Street for more than 20 years, opening in 2000 as a one-stop shop for locally sourced fruit and veg, whole foods, imported ingredients, free-from products and more. But the Carrot is more than just a shop.
With their strap-line – “It’s a whole lot more than a fruit and veg store” – the Crunchy Carrot offered the community a range of services – a community hub; a beacon of sustainability; a ticket and events office; a refillery; a local employer; a supplier to cafes, nurseries, schools and restaurants; a green campaigner; a local produce purchaser and a cooking tips and recipe exchange.
In 2019, when the Crunchy Carrot’s owners decided to step down and the community was faced with losing it from the High Street forever, it was seen as vital that this important community resource continued with the same socially conscious ethos.
A group of locals formed a steering committee to explore their options. A public meeting and survey showed strong support for running the business as a community enterprise. The steering group set up a community benefit society, the Community Carrot Ltd, to take over the Crunchy Carrot (which the shop kept as its trading name), with support from the Plunkett Foundation and Community Shares Scotland to help consult the wider local community.
The Crunchy Carrot Ltd Community Benefit Society is a kind of co-operative where all members have one vote regardless of the size of their investment, and which exists to benefit the wider community, not just the members of the co-operative.
A grant from the Scottish Land Fund allowed the purchase of the building, and a community share offer raised a further £62,000, used to buy the business’ stock and assets, which are now owned by more than 500 shareholders. The remainder went toward refurbishing the premises, expanding the shop’s outreach and engagement efforts in the community, and funding reserves which have proved essential throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Crunchy Carrot began trading as a community-owned enterprise in November 2019, and continues to expand opportunities to buy hyper-local produce, supporting micro-businesses and local community gardens in the process. The Carrot supplies local restaurant and cafes with local produce, and in time, are aiming to begin supplying produce to local schools again.
As well as striving to keeps money generated locally in local hands, the Carrot works with local organisations to build effective and sustainable economic, environmental and social initiatives and to further outreach work with local schools and community groups.
Sunny Soups is just one example of The Carrot’s work to support the local community. Run in partnership with The Ridge , the project uses fresh surplus produce to make quality, healthy food, stocked in a community freezer for anyone to take free of charge.