Butchers take Sheffield back to the future

Simmonite Butchers
Simmonite Butchers
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It is a butchers and a fishmongers, and perhaps, more than that, a sign that the future of Sheffield city centre shopping might just lie in the past.

Simmonite in Division Street – a road more renowned for vintage clothes, trendy bars and chain coffee shops than lamb and liver – is thought to be the first independent family butchers opened in S1 in more than two decades.

Meaty matters: Carl and Mark Simmonite

Meaty matters: Carl and Mark Simmonite

And, in an age when Tesco would try and open a store in the cupboard under your stairs if they thought enough people passed by, onlookers reckon the development might signal a growing desire for proper shops run by proper people. You know, like in the days before progress.

“Are we revolutionaries?” snorts Mark Simmonite, one of two brothers behind the emporium. “Don’t be soft. We’re just a couple of Castle Market lads who felt we could now do better business on the High Street.”

They might just, however, be trendsetters.

Here’s some theory: with ever-increasing city centre living and working, the ongoing economic squeeze and growing concerns about where exactly supermarket products come from (and what exactly they are), more shoppers than ever are looking for city centre fresh food emporiums.

Sylvie Wright  In the Upperthorpe Road Cafe

Sylvie Wright In the Upperthorpe Road Cafe

That opens a gap in the market for traders like Mark and brother Carl. They opened Simmonite (beef? check; chicken? check; kangaroo? check) after becoming convinced that more and more people are discovering what their nanas knew all along: nothing beats buying your meat from a local chap who knows his chops.

“Trendsetters?” splutters Carl. “I don’t know about that either. There are a couple of traders looking to see how we do. The original idea was for a friend to set up a fruit and veg store next door but they couldn’t get the building. Wouldn’t that have been fantastic, though?”

The pair – who have traded all their lives at Castle Market (and had a dad and grandad who did so before them) – decided to start afresh before the market moves to The Moor.

“The move didn’t stack up,” says Carl, 49, of Walesby, Nottinghamshire. “We wanted longer opening hours and more days trading to fit in with 21st century shopping patterns. Bosses told us that wouldn’t happen. Here, we open seven to seven, seven days a week, and if there’s any customers still in here at that time, we stay open until they’re done. Is it hard work? Yes, mate. But this is our dream.”

They chose their location after spending an afternoon in Division Street: “There was a constant river of people,” notes Mark, 46, of Aston. “I thought they’re all right for vintage jeans and a beer – but they need to get their meat somewhere.”

Their dad, Colin – market trader through and through – was less impressed.

“He said we were stupid,” remembers Carl. “Then he saw the shop and there were tears in his eyes. He said it was beautiful. And it is.”

Just don’t call them revolutionaries while buying your racks and ribs.