The 'cosmopolitan' Sheffield street where businesses are defying the odds and booming in lockdown
If you were to amble down Sharrow Vale Road on a weekend, you would be shocked by the sheer amount of people stopping for takeaway coffee, tucking into a pizza, or buying their evening meal meat – and this is how they have adapted so successfully to lockdown life.
Sharrow Vale Road in S11 is known for its ‘food mile’ – a whole host of successful independent cafes, bars, restaurants, fishmongers, butchers and takeaways.
The area has even been branded one of the UK’s ‘coolest neighbourhoods’, and houses in the suburb surrounding the foodie arcadia increasingly desirable.
Now, due to the national lockdown and enforced rules and restrictions, all of the aforementioned establishments have been forced to adapt. But, as the business owners tell me, that has not necessarily been a bad thing.
Jonty Cork, who owns Made by Jonty, said business is thriving for him and his cafe – as well as serving takeaway out of a ‘hatch’, deliveries have counted for a quarter of the boom in lockdown sales.
Jonty said: “We were a small little cafe, with a small amount of tables and people would have to queue to get in.
“Now, we have put a hatch in the front of the shop, so we can serve people out the window.
"A coffee and cake walk has just become an element of life that people can have to be outside, so we are just in the ideal location for that.
"We just moved everything to takeaway, we do all our classics in boxes to go – which is mad. I have really enjoyed people’s innovation.
"I got a roast from the Wagon and Horses (Abbeydale Road) yesterday, and it was just amazing; you can get eggs benedict from me in a morning, and Sunday roast from the Wagon and Horses.”
Joe Harrison, who runs the Beer House on Ecclesall Road, garnered attention online when he mentioned the amount of queues for ‘essential cupcakes’ in Sharrow Vale – as well as highlighting how pubs were unable to sell takeaway, he shined a light on the success of Sheffield’s independents in adapting to lockdown.
And, if you are to take a stroll down Sharrow Vale Road, you would not be mistaken for thinking there are queues all day, every day. And that is probably because there is.
On Valentine’s Day, Jonty says the cafe ‘did as much trade’ as it would have done on any given busy Saturday pre-pandemic.
He said: “I think what has changed is people ordering breakfast in bed. As we are mainly a breakfast/brunch place, ordering delivery wasn’t really something you could do this time last year – I don’t think there were many people delivering brunch. So that entire market for me is brand new.”
Deliveries via apps, including Sheffield-based City Grab, have allowed Jonty to keep his staff working for the four days he opens.
He also believes the industry will be changed for the better on the back of this, with ‘more interaction’ with these staff members, and the customers they are serving.
“Those days of you walking past a table and someone on Table 2 shouting, ‘I’ll have a latte!’ that’s not going to happen.
"People look at your face, they interact, and when people actually came back in in summer, you go to the table and they put their phones down, they’d look at you.
"There has been a lot more interaction with people, and the re-engagement with customers is really good.”
Viv Durrant owns Porter Pizza, a artisan pizza takeaway which is open solely in the evenings during the week – but that hasn’t stopped business from booming for them, either.
As well as adapting logistically, they have even added ‘walk friendly’ items to the menu, as well as employing more staff to keep up with demand.
She said: "We have had a massive uptake – we are at least 40 per cent up from the same time last year. It’s huge.
"A lot of new people are coming in. They obviously see us in the day time as well because there’s places like Pom that just go crazy at the minute, everybody wants it.
"And then come to us in the evening. Because there are such draws of stuff like Eve’s, Pom and Jonty’s during the day time, that even though we are not open in the day we get a lot of people browsing, so it has been great for us.
But why has Sharrow Vale in particular hit such a chord with the Sheffield people?
Viv said: “I think it is just such a nice street to browse down, and with so little to do, to have the park near by and all the food places down here it is a natural draw.
"There is a lot of people selling things that work well for takeaway food, so lots of people eating on the street.
"We introduced these little pizza boats that we sell almost like a hotdog tray, specifically for walking and browsing with as that is really all you can do – so people are walking and eating through Sharrow Vale. It has attracted a bit of a niche there so everyone has adapted to that and it is working really well.”
Jonty added: “Sharrow Vale is just a very busy, commercial area. And we have done very well from that.
"We are such a cosmopolitan street – we have butchers, fishmongers, candlestick makers, hardware stores.
"You come to Sharrow Vale to shop, to browse, and so the passing trade is not just coming for one thing, you hit all sorts in your journey."