Providing insight into these pioneering decisions is co-owner Jeff Kinney.
Why did you use green-building
strategies in developing your store?
I was interested in making An Unlikely Story a sustainable
building that would benefit the community and serve as
an educational facility. [Given] the historical and personal
significance the original building had for residents,
I wanted to create an iconic, new building that would
serve the community for years. To ensure that this building
would not only last, but last in a smart way, it was critical
to me that the architect design a building that was
energy-efficient and used sustainable materials.
Why build in a historic space?
This site has been so many things: a barbershop, a grocery
store, a pharmacy, and Falk’s Market. When we bought it,
it had been abandoned for 17 years and was decrepit. When
we made the difficult decision to take it down, it hit me that
we were losing history. We had to honor the past by building
something beautiful and useful for the future. During demolition, we salvaged some existing beams and tried to take
cues from the old building.
Did the unforeseen costs affect your decision
to continue with green-building strategies?
Although the site itself presented some of our biggest
What made the investment
obstacles, this project was always about creating some-
thing that would serve the community for hundreds of
years. So regardless of the unforeseen situations we found
ourselves in, sustainability was always a foundation with
worth it to you to build green?
We wanted to create a sustainable building that was as
energy-efficient as possible. Early on in the design process, I worked with Bergmeyer to create a preliminary LEED
checklist to create accountability. This building is equipped
with solar panels on the roof and is designed to be 45%
more energy-efficient than a similar building, so the investment was beyond worth it. It was important to me to create
a building that wasn’t wasteful and that I could feel good
about operating efficiently. I hope the community will be
inspired by the creation of this bookstore.
How would you advise
other retailers about building sustainably?
You need to make a building special and extraordinary
to draw people in, as well as one that can stand the test
of time. To build something sustainable, you need to
consider the future and not just focus on the present.
The former hub of town as a general store, a decrepit building beloved by townsfolk was given new life as a bookstore, café, and community center by Jeff Kinney,
With a water table 4 ft. above the basement slab, contam-
inated soil, and soil-retention issues, costs soared before the
framing even began. That didn’t stop the Kinneys from continu-
ing with the design by Shop! member Bergmeyer Associates.
Features include rainwater collection for irrigation, rooftop
solar panels, dimmable LED lighting, recycled-content exterior
trim and roof shingles, and an energy-efficient elevator that
requires no machine room or oil. Reclaimed materials include
pieces from the existing site, relics from the same era, and teak
from fishing boats destroyed in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.
Movable seating accommodates community activities, such as
open-mic nights, game nights, and cooking demonstrations.
Jo Rossman, LEED AP ID+C, is editor of Shop!.
Trailblazer: Jeff and Julie Kinney
Trail: Comprehensive green-building strategies
Settlement: An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Café, Plainville, MA
Mid-1800s building above an aquifer
Community nostalgia for prior use of site
Extensive site-related unforeseen costs