If you’re looking for the hardware shop of the future, look to Sharrow Vale Hardware. It's not far removed from the traditional type: shelves and walls fit to burst with all the tools and materials for most domestic whimsies and emergencies, plus friendly and well-schooled staff always on hand to tell you where the right tiny pin or tin of Hammerite is for the job. Then you spot the beautiful coffee stove tops, the care and attention to detail in every inch of display, and you get the feeling that it's not purely there for the little necessities.
Sharrow Vale Hardware offers the right mix of familiarity and forward thinking. Just don’t go in and ask for "a new bubble for your spirit level". As a neighbour and hardened admirer of SVH, I’ve been itching to find out how owner Nigel came to run it and why he thinks it works so well.
What led you to take on SVH?
I grew up in my grandfather's hardware shop in Snaith near Selby, which my dad then took over after retiring from teaching. I spent school holidays working in the shop and ended up back there in my late 20s. Although I’d never really envisaged myself a shop proprietor, after several years working in my dad’s business I felt I needed a new challenge.
For some time I’d been interested in environmental issues. It pained me to sell overly toxic chemical products to people unnecessarily whilst knowing of much friendlier alternatives. After two years of living in Sheffield I heard that Mrs Turley’s hardware shop in Sharrow Vale was to close and only then did I entertain the possibility of my own shop.
The idea was for a combination of a traditional hardware shop but with a more progressive ecological product choice. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but the people I spoke to mentioned Mrs Turley with such warmth that I knew her shop was missed and there was a good possibility that it might work. Though I would never say we are a ‘green shop’, we try to sell traditional hardware goods along with eco-paints, eco cleaning products, and as many recycled products as possible. We like to keep a selection of teapots in our window as a nod towards Mrs Turley’s legendary shop, which kept going for so many years in the unit next door to ours.
Who makes up the SVH team?
Paul, Frances, Lorien and Charlie. George the cat is head of security.
What do you enjoy most about a day in the shop?
I really enjoy opening up, particularly when the sun is shining, and putting a selection of our stock out on the pavement. Sharrow Vale Road has such a quaint little village vibe for somewhere so close to a city centre; it’s amazing. We have the most interesting customers – I’ve gone from serving predominantly farmers at my dad’s shop, to serving artists and musicians, and some of the footballers I used to idolise as a kid. There’s never a dull day.
How do you decide what to stock?
Usually if two or more people enquire about a product, we’ll get it in and give it a go. Our first window display featured, amongst other things, a packet of filler. Nowadays we go to town and feature more attractive and quirky kitchenalia and gardening tools. We try and do all the main sellers in decorating, ironmongery, plumbing, etc and then jazz it up with some funky but functional products. We had a tradesman in once who looked around and exclaimed: "this is like a boutique hardware shop!"
Can you tell us about your strangest customer request?
We get a few newbies asking for a "long stand", "a new bubble for a spirit level", "tartan paint", etc. One chap seemed quite shocked that we didn’t sell the brown overalls as used in hardware shops circa 1950.
What do you love about Sheffield?
It has to be its greenery and parks. After a few years living in London I vowed not to live in a city again, but Sheffield feels nothing like a city to me. Having the Peaks so close by is so convenient.
What would you do to improve the city?
I would like Sheffield’s green credentials to be utilised even more and become the flagship UK city for ecological initiatives and sustainability.
- Words by
- Jane Faram
- Images by
- Shaun Bloodworth