“Community means everything to us,” says Sheffield Retail Award winner, 1554 Coffee & Gift Shop
“There are people who’ve lived in Sheffield their whole lives, who haven’t been into the Cathedral,” says Ruth Maher-Heslip, who manages the building’s 1554 Coffee & Gift Shop.
"Sometimes, people are a little wary of coming into a religious building to visit a cafe, and often it’s a friend who has recommended us to them.
"Once they come in, they keeping coming back; we’re a bit of peace and tranquility right here in the city centre, and we’ve built up a loyal customer base in the past five years.”
This week, 1554 Coffee & Gift Shop was named the winner of the ‘Customer Service’ category of the Sheffield City Centre Retail Awards.
The 2020 awards received a record number of entries and nominations, with people across the city keen to celebrate shops big and small, and the people who have kept them running efficiently this year against all the odds.
"We were just gobsmacked when we found out,” says enterprise business manager Ruth.
"What’s brilliant about this award is that we were nominated by our customers, and chosen by the judges, so it shows we’re getting something right.
"It makes me quite emotional actually; the whole cathedral team has been behind us, and it’s just the boost we need at the end of this year.
"It’s really special for us.”
The coffee shop – which serves sandwiches, deli food, and cakes, as well as its well-known Heavenly Coffee – was forced to close its doors in March, briefly reopening in the summer before Tier 3 restrictions, and then national lockdown, closed it once again.
"It’s been an awful year, no doubt,” nods Ruth.
"There have been a lot of changes in this coffee shop which have been really difficult.
"After the first lockdown, a lot of people thought we might have closed down, and we were getting people popping their heads in to check we were still here, which was nice.
"We also decided, in 2020, to rebrand the shop and coffee shop under the same nice, and the previous gift shop manager and myself are now working together to build both businesses back up.
"The second lockdown hit us really hard, and though we still can’t open the coffee shop just yet, we’re serving mince pies and takeaway coffee in the gift shop, so that people can still get their Heavenly Coffee-fix, as the footfall in this part of the city is quite heavy at the moment, in the run-up to Christmas.
"We’re really hopeful we’ll be back up and running at the end of January.”
And, Ruth says she believes that, when the time comes, her customers will return.
"Community is what we’re all about,” she says.
"Our customers means everything to us, they’ve become friends over the years, which is part of the wider mission of the cathedral, so to win this award for customer service is extra special.
"We’ve also made it our mission to support other independents in this time – including our brilliant suppliers – as we know what a difference that makes, and want to be sure we’re all making it out the other side of this.
"As soon as we can open our doors, we will - and I believe our lovely customers will come back to see us.”