A ONCE derelict York corner shop has been returned to its former glory following a planning wrangle with the council.

As The Press reported back in 2020, Sara Winlow bought the former Southbank Stores on the corner of Balmoral Terrace and Count de Burgh Terrace - with the dream of opening a coffee shop and florist on the ground floor and creating somewhere for herself and her son, Gabriel, to live on the first and second floors.

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York Press: Sara Winlow and her son, Gabriel, outside the shopSara Winlow and her son, Gabriel, outside the shop (Image: Rob Darbyshire)

Despite a planning wrangle, which saw 1,300 people sign a petition backing Sara's bid, she has made it through the other side and Lapin - Flowers & Coffee has now opened its doors.

She said it's been a long road, but the end result is everything she dreamed of.

"I would like to thank everyone who signed our petition to help us get here today and thank all of our customers for their positive feedback and support," said Sara.

"It’s been lovely to finally open and meet so many people and work with so many local businesses and specialists. Sadly I lost my mum to Alzheimer’s, during this journey but our first flowers arrived on her birthday and she would have loved them. 

"We stock sustainable UK flowers grown half an hour down the road near Howden, they are grown by Sammie @KiddalQuarryFarm and Hattie @GatheredatDusk.

"It's important to me that there are no pesticides or chemicals, or air-miles involved as the UK has lost 97 per cent of its wildflower meadows since the Second World War and buying these cut weekly will replenish the stock, keeping the bee population happy, which is responsible for pollinating our food and pollinating trees and flowers that other wildlife is dependent on."

Sara is a level 3 qualified florist and is arranging the flowers for free in a £3 vase which is provided at cost price and when it's returned to her, customers get a free hot drink.

"This means the flowers are package free too and arranged to fit the vase perfectly," she said.

"I’m trying to keep arrangements at a more affordable price mark in hope that they can be enjoyed more regularly as keeping these growers in bloom has so many environmental benefits."

York Press: Sara hard at workSara hard at work (Image: Rob Darbyshire)

The cafe's coffee is provided by Roost Coffee, a family run, small batch roaster in Malton, with Hebden Tea supplying tea and Sara's fiancé, chef Rob Darbyshire, doing much of the baking.

York Press: Some of the baked goods on offerSome of the baked goods on offer (Image: @localgardenwitch)

Sara said: "We hold an alcohol licence and offer a sustainable wine collection from York Wines, Brew York beers and Cooper King spirits to drink in or these can be purchased to enjoy at home also. 

"Our cakes and sandwiches made in house daily with C&S sourdough and meats from Knavesmire butchers. 

"We are also now growing our gifting collection made by local artists including Ros Johnson and Little Leaf Pottery."

York Press: Some of Sara's floral arrangementsSome of Sara's floral arrangements (Image: @localgardenwitch)

So, why Lapin?

"The name means rabbit in French and the idea is that the rabbit is the pest who eats the flowers, we kill and eat the rabbit, and when we die and return to the ground the flowers grow once again. The rabbit is symbolic for new life and we have opened during Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

"The cyclical nature of life and death mirrors our sustainable ethos. We are working with local and sustainable suppliers."

The shop comes complete with its own taxidermied 'house bunny' Francis who was found dead before he became a piece of art. 

Sara said: "A big thanks also goes to my builder Paul Cross and his team who have worked so hard on it and the lovely mosaic installation is by Starel Stones installed by Paul’s team."

York Press: The stunning flowers are all grown locallyThe stunning flowers are all grown locally (Image: @localgardenwitch)