Pride in a state of independence

Michael and jane Sofos who are selling up and retiring from their Ora giftware shop on Sharrowvale Road
Michael and jane Sofos who are selling up and retiring from their Ora giftware shop on Sharrowvale Road

Over almost 25 years, Michael and Jane Sofos have watched Sharrowvale Road develop into a vibrant mix of independent shops, cafes and other businesses.

They were in the vanguard, opening their craft and design gallery and shop, Ora, on the corner of Ashford Road.

But now the couple, who met in Sheffield when they were students, and initially opened a gallery on the Greek island of Kos, are preparing to sell up for retirement.

“It’s time for us to have a change,” said Jane. “We’ve loved the years at Ora, but we’re ready to spend more time back in Greece and to see the rest of the world too.”

Michael came from Greece to study business at the then Sheffield Polytechnic, when Jane was doing A-levels at the former Richmond College.

They had a gallery on Kos for seven years. “We missed Sheffield so we decided to come back and try the formula here,” said Jane. “Originally we basically replicated the business we had in Greece, shipping over beautiful hand made studio ceramics and jewellery from Greece.

“I remember when we first opened, I think people were a bit shocked. It seemed an unlikely addition to the road, which was mainly regular ‘high street’ shops, such as greengrocers, butchers, haberdashers, etc.

“Gradually we got to know some of the fabulous local makers - then the art campus for Sheffield Hallam was right on our doorstep at Psalter Lane and we were lucky to have some of the new jewellery graduates, such as Adele Taylor and Jennie Gill, bring us their work. We’ve continued to stock their beautiful jewellery on and off all these years.

The couple are planning to buy a home in Greece, while retaining a property in Sheffield.

“We’re very proud to have been part of Sharrowvale Road all these years,” said Jane. “It’s a remarkable street. Mary Portas should perhaps come and take a look at this fantastic mix of totally independent businesses! We’ll definitely miss our many, many loyal customers - many have become friends.”

Ora means ‘look!’ in ancient Greek. The business is being sold through Chesterfield-based agents Fishwick & Co.

“It will be fantastic to pass the business on to someone else. It’s a great business that has really become part of the fabric of Sharrowvale Road.”