Chapel Walk This Way

Exposed gets the lowdown on the plans to makeover Sheffield’s very own Diagon Alley – which includes the launch of Birds Yard, a brand new independent retail centre.
Chapel Walk is getting spruced up! Sheffield has been given £100,000 from the Local Government and Department for Communities as a part of their scheme to rejuvenate city centres and fill up empty shop fronts with innovative and exciting retail. They’ve decided to spend it on reviving Chapel Walk, as well as giving independent designers and artists an opportunity to get a foot onto the retail ladder.
The money has come as part of the ‘Mary Portas’ fund, whereby that ginger bobbed retail genius provided tips on how to jazz up the ‘high street,’ and the government were smart enough not to argue. At the heart of the new project is Bird’s Yard, a new retail emporium based in the old Oasis store.
“Here young entrepreneurs will be able to take a unit of varying size to sell their goods. This could be as small as a single shelf or as large as a stand-alone space. This way we can take new retailers on a journey, helping them progress their idea right through to a stand-alone business,” says Councillor Leigh Bramall. “We hope this is something that will help local businesses grow and flourish – something that lasts for years to come helping boost the city’s economy and add valuable jobs for local people.”
Chapel Walk already hosts some great shops. Exposed frequently find themselves gorging on Reese’s Pieces from American Soul, or trying (and failing) to be classy with an afternoon tea at Andrew’s. Regardless, we’re mega happy the whole street is getting a bit of a redesign, and it’ll be especially nice once the eight empty shop fronts are full up!
We caught up with Michelle Walton, who is in charge of turning what was once Oasis into the ‘Bird’s Yard,’ providing an opportunity for twenty-five plus new businesses to flourish. She is currently trading in Leeds as Birdshell Vintage, a highly successful operation that has been named one of Europe’s most unique boutiques! Her ethos is to actively support and grow small independent designers/artists/creatives in a co-operative type environment. What a gal!
Having had such massive success in Leeds, we were curious as to what sort of identity she wanted to create here in Sheffield. “I heard the street used to be the cool independent place to shop and to try and get back to that would be a massive success. I think it is a lovely quirky alley with some beautiful old shops in it. There are already a few successful independent businesses there, so to build on that would be fantastic.”
Independent is the buzz word here. Bird’s Yard hopes to take back some of the shoppers who frequent Meadowhall and bring them back to the loving arms of the City Centre, where businesses that are Sheffield born and bred are supported. But how do you draw people back to Chapel Walk?
“Firstly, I would dread going anywhere as busy as Meadowhall at this time of year! Secondly, I pride myself on customer interaction and many tenants offer a bespoke service. For example you could get a hat or fascinator made that matches your outfit and personal requirements exactly. That’s priceless, and I would doubt you would find that service in many large shopping centres.”
We can attest to Meadowhall being rather hellish at Christmas time! So, who’s on board so far? “We have signed up everything from artists/illustrators doing limited edition urban wear, high end ladies vintage, a deli space selling jams/chutneys, milliners, amazing jewellery designers, ladies wear designers, books, homewares and vintage furniture. Still looking for menswear and anything else quirky really.”
There you have it, Sheffield is on the up! A cool creative spot where people can shop, eat and chill out without having to battle with the masses. Sounds rather good, no?
If you’re interested in getting involved, drop an email to Michelle or click here.
Words: Amy Collin

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