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A Magazine for Sheffield

Celebrating the resilience of our independents

Icarus and Apollo, Eats Roots and Leaves, Sebastian's, Beer Central and Bean and Stalk tell us about the trials of tribulations of running an independent food business since lockdown.

We've all been adjusting to these ever-changing and uncertain times, and none more so than our city's food and drink businesses, who've had to take tough decisions about their future.

There have been steep learning curves and lots of hard work to adapt ways of working, whether that's setting up an online shop or configuring safe takeaway and delivery services.

More businesses are now starting to open as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions. Whether life will return to the 'normal' we were living before COVID-19, no-one knows for sure. But the real positives we should take from this shared experience are the resilience of the human spirit and the commitment to have a go and take a leap of faith into the future together.

We spoke to Icarus and Apollo, Eats Roots and Leaves, Sebastian's, Beer Central and Bean and Stalk to hear their stories and what positives they've found within the challenges of lockdown.

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Icarus and Apollo

Icarus and Apollo, are an internationally inspired street food vendor of sustainable plant-based meals, based in Sheffield.

Given the current situation we've found a new home at SteelYard Kelham, serving takeaway from Tuesday to Sunday each week.

If you visit us you'll find two faces behind the business, Holly and Campbell. Holly is from Sheffield originally and has spent almost all of the past five years travelling across the world. Campbell is from the small country town of Kangaroo Valley in New South Wales, Australia.

Our dishes reflect cultural inspiration from our travels, including countries like the Philippines, France, Vietnam, Australia and Turkey. Our passion for sustainable and ethically-sourced food is at the core of what we do.

It was an absolute lifesaver when SteelYard Kelham reached out and offered for us to serve takeaway from this awesome venue in Kelham Island.

We spent a few weeks tweaking our recipes to develop a menu that would suit both pick-up and delivery options, which meant cooking up our dishes, leaving them for 20 minutes in our recyclable serving containers, then tasting them to ensure that what we were sending out was going to be at a high enough standard.

The biggest positive that we've seen during the lockdown, has been the openness, kindness and willingness of those around us to lend a hand.

Whether that's positive feedback on social media or continuing to order from us week in and out, the feedback has been fantastic and brings a smile to our faces. When we're cooking away we can see that people have clearly gone out of their way to show their support.

More people are joining our list of regulars, which is super exciting and humbling for us both. It's this positivity with the Sheffield community that drives us and our business, with hopes for more exciting opportunities in the future.

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Eats Roots and Leaves

Before coronavirus I sold my salads at farmers' markets and food festivals, as well as offering a catering service.

I'm Bridget and I live in Barnsley. I've been trading as Eats Roots and Leaves since 2017, making and selling a range of salads, hummus and dips.

I source my ingredients where possible from local businesses, and aim to be as environmentally sustainable as possible by using recyclable materials, green power and delivering salads in my electric hybrid car. I hate waste, composting any excess salads. That makes for better herbs, some of which I grow myself.

When it looked like farmers' markets and events would be cancelled, I decided to test the interest in a home delivery service for my salads and dips.

I put feelers out on my social media and to vegetarian and vegan groups. Would they want to pay for salads to be delivered to their doorstep? Well, it seems they would. I set a minimum number of orders that I needed and within 24 hours I had reached that figure.

It's been great fun, as well as a really positive development for the business, to move to the new way of working. I've built up a whole new customer base and I've been able to test out new products, something that I really enjoy.

Sometimes I make a salad that's a mini explosion of taste, such as my chickpea and kale salad with sundried tomato dressing. Other times I create something that is subtly flavoured, like my bulgur wheat salad with carrots, spinach and apricots.

I plan to continue the delivery service after lockdown is lifted, in the 'new normal'.

I've been overwhelmed by the positive responses from my customers. Some order salads every week, others from time to time, but every week I get mentions on Instagram and Facebook from satisfied customers posting pictures of how they're eating their delivery.

I make a point of offering a different range of salads each week and my customers seem to enjoy the variety, but I often get special requests for the salads I've made before.

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Beer Central

We love beer ourselves and use our knowledge and passion to offer some of the best beers in the world to our thirsty and equally knowledgeable customers.

Our beer shop is based in The Moor Market in Sheffield's city centre. We specialise in sourcing the very best beers, ciders and mead, offering a range to suit all tastes.

We're a small family team and since opening back in 2013 we have enjoyed running our shop alongside our online mail order business, allowing us to sell to all different types of customers, some living less than a mile away and others based in all different parts of the UK.

When lockdown was announced, we initially closed our business, allowing ourselves a couple of weeks to work out how we could continue to exist.

We knew that we would be able to expand our existing online mail order service and quickly went about sourcing as many great beers as we could, a difficult task at the time, as many breweries had been forced to close or scale down their operations.

We also launched our first ever regular local delivery service, allowing us to offer a near normal range of beers to our Steel City customers. The ThriftyFifty box became an instant success, with three different options for customers to choose from.

We kept things simple and clear at a time when many people were facing unparalleled changes to their lives. We didn't want beer to be an additional complication.

More than anything we've learnt to fully appreciate the normality of life and make sure that we live life to the full when something like normality returns.

Our business is stable and able to continue, our team and families have stayed safe and the overwhelming support we've received from our customers has been so very much appreciated by us all.

This situation gives us confidence that our business will be able to succeed in what will be a testing few years for the whole retail industry.

Feedback has been really excellent, a constant source of encouragement to us all. Many existing customers have continued to support what we do and many new customers have quickly become friends. It's not just about selling as much beer as we can. Relationships and friendships are just as important.

We're happy to announce that our shop, along with The Moor Market, will be open from 15 June - a chance to offer a safe shopping experience to customers and fear not, our delivery service will continue too.

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Sebastian's Kitchen + Cakery

Food is my passion and it's always been my dream to run a food business. I have a small but totally amazing team and I couldn't do it without them.

I'm Abbie, the owner of Sebastian's Kitchen + Cakery on Sharrow Vale Road.

We offer lots of tasty sandwiches, salads, pastries, hot and cold drinks, plus a whole host of homemade cakes, scones and the best brownies (so we've been told!). We make full use of the wide range of wonderful local suppliers we have available to us.

We are truly a family business. Sebastian, the café's namesake and our eldest, is 9 now, and since opening we had Xander, who is now 4.

The current COVID-19 situation has forced us to rethink our business model completely.

When lockdown was first announced we closed our doors entirely because we felt that whatever we did, it would be putting our customers and our team at risk and they are always our priority.

It was the hardest decision, not knowing when or if we would be able to reopen. After seven years of hard work it was heart-breaking.

As a team, we decided the best way to proceed was to reopen on a takeaway basis. We had no idea if we would have any customers. I enlisted my wonderful sister to help rebuild and refresh our website to allow us to take online orders.

This was very complicated for a technophobe like me. She's been a star and I owe her so much. There is no way I could have done this without her.

We've simplified our menu slightly for walk-in orders but broadened our range online to reduce queuing times for our customers and to help keep everyone safe.

This has been a huge change but we realised that if we wanted to keep going we needed to work out a new normal and sustainable way of working.

I've learned that we can adapt and that sometimes you just have to keep going, put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

It has reaffirmed my belief in the value of a support network - all those special people in our lives who keep us going, help us out, prop us up, or just provide an ear.

The support from our customers and our Sharrow Vale Road community has been overwhelming. People have welcomed us back with open arms and warm words. It's been wonderful to see everyone in person and to know they're all ok. I missed them! We appreciate every single one of them. Without them, we wouldn't be here.

Every single thing people buy from a small business makes a difference. I think that people are beginning to understand that more and more, and that makes me happy.

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Bean & Stalk

All of our cooking and baking is plant-based and our core concept really revolves around sustainability.

We are Tom and Marie Maxwell, the people behind Bean & Stalk, a new Sheffield-based sustainable food delivery service.

Our mission is to support local small producers by turning their produce into delicious fresh savoury meals and baked snacks that we deliver to the people of Sheffield.

We cook with the seasons, focusing on lowering food miles and showing off how good produce can be in any given season. The message we want to send out is that if you eat local, seasonal and fresh you will be doing both yourself and the environment a world of good.

The idea for Bean & Stalk was initially a full blown café concept. We were incredibly keen to have a physical location for customers to hang out.

We were setting up the business when all the lockdown measures were announced and so had to rethink and reevaluate our initial plans.

We opened our online shop on 27 May, offering next-day delivery across Sheffield. Customers can order online, for themselves or as a gift for a friend or family member.

Our menu was always going to be small and changing with the seasons, so we have not had to make any changes in that regard.

We were pleasantly surprised by how many orders are being placed as gifts for friends and family.

Friends who would previously go out for a coffee together are now sending each other tasty treats through us and that is amazing to be a part of.

It's been really hard to not be able to see our customers face to face and get that opportunity for immediate feedback. However, we've received lovely emails from happy customers, so our biggest lesson there is that when people feel joy they still want to share it.

We've been told that you can really taste the freshness of each ingredient in our salad and green tart, the current savoury options.

The wildflower shortbread biscuits are all uniquely decorated with freshly-foraged flowers. One of our customers described them as 'little works of art', which was just a wonderful compliment.

Overall, the response has been one of excitement whenever we put out a new idea or product. We really can't wait to meet all these lovely people face to face.

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