Leeds has been needing a new shopping experience for a long time. After the Corn Exchange closed, doing a bit of mooching around looking at handmade and alternative items was always a bit of a treck. Yes, there's Joy in The Light, and Culture Vulture near Oxfam, and a few vintage shops remain around The Corn Exchange area - but there hasn't been a central location, an area like The Village in New York.
The Pannier Markets which started in April at Granary Wharf showcased the amazing amounts of talent in the city. From there, I found out about other workshop events - deserving mentions go to Fabrication for their craft workshops, and the talented Michelle Duxbury, who runs the website Craftsville and Dr Sketchy's anti-art classes.
So after not being able to find a decent craft supply shop in the real world, and meeting all the artisans at the market who couldn't afford their own shops, I was toying with the idea of opening a shop selling craft supplies and handmade items from locals. I mentioned it to a Business Link advisor, and he told me of someone called Michelle who was doing something similar in Leeds City Centre.
It doesn't seem 5 weeks ago that I met Michelle Walton, sweeping the floor in an empty shop in Kirkgate. Having previously owned Bird Shell (that amazing vintage dress shop in the arcade behind BHS) she has the business acumen and knowledge of her market. Amazingly driven, enthusiastic and hard-working, I had no doubt she'd come up with something truly unique. Of course, as she was offering space to rent, it would save me the headache of having to open a shop of my own, knowing, as I do, absolutely nothing about running a business.
Bird's Yard has now been open for three weeks, and I can't believe how quickly the time has flown! The shop is now open, with a vast array of artists and designs (who I'll be doing blog posts on individually - I thought Shell deserved her own post), and without Michelle, it wouldn't have happened. She had the vision, and she's made it happen. Not only has it taken over where The Corn Exchange left a gaping void, it's bringing new designers and artists to the fore, and giving them the attention they deserve.
Opinions and reviews have been good, and last week Bird's Yard provided the goody bags at the Leeds Loves Shopping launch, which have also been well received. After seeing the shop, Louise Atkinson was inspired to create Independent Leeds, an interactive map showing areas of Leeds not usually seen and devoid of big brands.
I'm not a massive part this huge, thriving independent scene, but I hope I can provide some WD40 to help grease the bigger cogs.
Facebook - Bird's Yard
Open - every day except Monday
(photo copyright James Abbott Donnelly)