End of an era as much-loved Sheffield shop closes after nearly 50 years
It is the end of an era, agrees Fay Jones – as the shop she manages closes permanently after almost 50 years of celebrating Sheffield’s heritage and its reputation for high-quality manufacturing.
Sheffield Scene, on Surrey Street, opened in 1974, specialising in locally-made cutlery, pewter ware and jewellery, as well as cheerful keepsakes for tourists.
But the shop has now ceased to trade, with the coronavirus pandemic largely to blame for the decision.
“It's mainly down to footfall,” says Fay, who has worked at Sheffield Scene for 22 years, four of which she has spent as its manager.
"We rely on people coming to Sheffield, and there's just not been anybody – it's been so quiet. That's the main reason. It's due really to Covid.”
The situation hasn’t improved since the beginning of 2020, she explains.
“It was quiet last January and February, which it always is, and then obviously we had lockdown. Things might have picked up in summer, but again there was nobody coming to Sheffield. Then we had lockdown again, and Christmas was very quiet, so it put an end to it.”
The shift to online shopping has accelerated Sheffield Scene’s demise too, Fay believes.
“People buy online more and the type of thing we sell you couldn't really put online - keyrings and fridge magnets and tea towels. It's an amalgamation of everything.”
Originally the shop’s final day would have fallen on January 30, but the imposition of a fresh stay-at-home order in England has brought the closure forward. The lease on the premises was up for renewal this year.
"I'm sad, because it's like a community, this shop,” says Fay, who is one of five staff. “I've known customers for a long time, and suppliers. People come in not necessarily to buy anything, just for a talk and to say 'How are you?'”
But she adds: “I understand you've got to keep a business going, you've got to be realistic.”
Some time after Sheffield Scene began it was taken on by Ray Brownhill, who owned the metalworking company Nickel Blanks – Carrs Silver, based on the Holbrook Industrial Estate, bought Nickel Blanks in 2009 and acquired the shop as part of the purchase.
“Sheffield's always been famous for cutlery and pewter,” says Fay. “That's the heritage of the city - most Sheffield people were connected to cutlery in some way. It's all in decline, this is the problem.”
She is enthusiastic about the idea of a centrally-located shop dedicated to traditional city products, but stresses that ‘you need the customers’.
“The problem we've got is you can't see when things are going to get better. People say spring or summer, but I think it's going to be a lot longer.”
Fay says there are ‘so many stories’ about Sheffield Scene – in 2004, a woman popped in looking for a replacement for a fork missing for 45 years from a canteen of cutlery given as a wedding gift. Remarkably she found it in the basement, priced £2.
“You wouldn't believe the things that have happened and the things we've done for people, I could write a book,” says Fay. “It's been part of Sheffield for so long.”
Carrs has vowed to donate remaining stock to struggling restaurants.