‘Save our shopping area’ call by Walkley traders

Walkley butcher Chris Beech in his shop on South road.
Walkley butcher Chris Beech in his shop on South road.

The launch of one store and closure of another signalled the dawn of a new era in Walkley this week.

But local traders fear the mounting pressure of supermarket giants could sound the death knell for their business – and they are mounting a campaign to save the suburb’s independent character.

Asda is the latest big name to arrive in the area. It opened a branch in South Road on Tuesday – just two days after long-established Walkley Food Store, a few hundred yards up the road, shut up shop for good.

Locals said Gary Levitt, who owned the neighbourhood convenience store, was reluctant to take on the might of the giants.

Now Chris Beech, who owns both the adjacent butcher’s shop and the nearby greengrocer’s, is urging people to support their local shops – or lose them.

“Asda has now taken over as the main threat to our developing community,” he said. “Already shops are giving up.

“We’ve recently lost a florist’s, a traditional sweetshop and now a main convenience store which has been a part of South Road for nearly 40 years.

“It’s a shame that the large chain supermarkets have the power to take over and wipe out our attempts to maintain smaller local businesses.”

Chris took on the Walkley butcher’s shop when his boss retired two years ago. A fresh focus on local sourcing, free-range meats and his own home-made sausages proved a winner with shoppers and the business flourished.

Meanwhile, wife Donna noted how much customers missed the old fruit and veg shop over the road and in June 2010 they took on that as well, reopening it as Fruits and Roots.

But the arrival of big stores such as Tesco, and now Asda, could hit his customer numbers, fears Chris. “Some people are welcoming the supermarket and others are totally against it – it’s an unknown quantity.

“We just hope this isn’t the nail in the coffin for our dream of a Walkley Quarter.”

The suburb had undergone something of a regeneration in recent years, drawing people back to the heart of their community.

New traders joined others who had served generations of locals, and they pooled their efforts to promote the area as an independent brand.

“People want to see traditional little shops back and we’re still building the community,” says Donna. “People appreciate local produce and personal service – they won’t find that in a supermarket.

“We’ve had a lot of hurdles and we’re not going to stop now.”

Chris adds: “We’re trying to promote the importance of local shops and community spirit. Our customers do appreciate our struggling efforts to keep local shops going – we’ve been nominated for a customer care award at the Sheffield’s Night of Honour Awards.

“Such loyalty inspires the desire to continue our struggle against the big supermarkets.”

*Hillsborough traders’ plea, p5.