In this month’s issue, Business Sheffield put us in touch with two high street heroes.
Molly’s Deli & Café and Moonko are two of the city’s well-loved independent businesses. We spoke to their owners to find out more.
Molly’s Café & Deli
A family-run establishment, Molly’s Café & Deli, is a unique independent business in the heart of Hillsborough, right next to the tramlines. Lucy Green, director, tells us all about her and her husband’s journey in cultivating their unique brand.
Lucy said: “We are a husband-and-wife team – my husband is Polish, I’m English – so we took our inspiration from both cuisines and our passion for eating out to create our fusion menu.
“We opened a day before the first lockdown – to say our business plan went out the window is an understatement. We had to change our entire business overnight to survive.
“Social media was our saving grace, along with our fantastic family and friends, ensuring we got the word out there. We posted about our grand opening being disrupted by COVID-19 and how we had fresh produce going to waste and 28,500 people reacted to it.
“Through the pandemic, independent businesses adapted quicker than the larger corporate companies. Although it wasn’t a positive experience, we believe COVID-19 made us. We stayed open throughout lockdown to serve our local community. When we decided to introduce a delivery service of our now famous cheese and charcuterie boards, it took off and people got more familiar with us.
“When our doors opened to welcome people in person, the queues down Hillsborough were unbelievable and heart-warming. Our local community supported us all the way – it’s a testament to them – to queuing in the rain and keeping our dream alive when it could have easily ended before it even began.
“I have lived in Hillsborough all my life. I greatly advocate for our local area, what it has to offer and its history. I remember the wet fish shops, butchers, fresh fruit and veg stalls, bakeries and the abundance of independent businesses.
“Over time, the area has gotten slightly run down – there are lots of empty units, graffiti and lifeless shopping areas, but since we opened, other independent businesses have opened their doors too – restaurants, bars, retail, art and craft shops – and people no longer have to travel to Kelham Island for that.
“Shopping local is more than just individual independent small businesses. It’s about businesses working together in our local community for our local community. It’s what I always wanted when starting my own business and means more to our customers. We can put them first – nothing is too much trouble at Molly’s – that’s been our ethos from the start. We are nothing without our customers, so we do our utmost to keep them returning every single day.”
MoonKo is an award-winning shop selling everlasting flowers and gifts. With many of the flowers being dried naturally in the shop, without chemicals, the stock remains ethical and completely homemade.
Founded by Deborah Moon in 2010, MoonKo is in Sheffield City Centre on Division Street – the home of many small independent shops and local pubs.
Deborah said: “I’ve been running Moonko for over ten years and have had this shop on Division Street for most of that time. I was an art lecturer before this, but I wanted more flexibility. I’d never thought of being self-employed before. However, this was a way to use my arts background, still work hard and make money, while being around for my family.
“The pandemic was exhausting, mentally and physically, and I had to keep changing my business to adapt. Fortunately, when you’re a small business, you don’t have shareholders telling you what to do. If you need to change something, you can.
“I moved towards dried flowers during lockdown because they weren’t perishable – it saved my business. When I opened again and footfall was low, I turned the shop into my workshop to occupy the space. I love the process of making and sharing that with people. It is a very traditional way for a shop to work, like a cobbler, but now it’s pretty unique.
“People love MoonKo because they feel they know me and understand what I’m about. I’ve had customers travel a long way to visit because they want to experience the environment of the shop and it’s great being among a mix of other businesses in the independent quarter, meeting people from all walks of life, never knowing who will come through the door.”