Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign held on the first Saturday of December. This year it is 03/12/22. Sheffield Green Party are calling for a range of measures to help small business, from insulation grants to online portals making shopping local easier.
Peter Gilbert from Ecclesall Green Party wanted to shine the spotlight on a local business and how important it is to the local community. He spoke to Karim Akbari Ghalehnovi, who runs the Persian Bakery at Banner Cross. Karim is proud to have the only bread oven of its kind in the UK. Business has been difficult and the cost of living crisis is only making things worse. He worries that the shop will have to close.
Persian Bakery at Banner Cross on Ecclesall Road.
Posters in the bakery window about the Iranian protests.
Karim Akbari Ghalehnovi with bread fresh from the oven.
The Evans family of Nether Edge are regulars to the Persian Bakery.
Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities. It takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact.
Karim Akbari Ghalehnovi runs the Persian Bakery at Banner Cross, Ecclesall Road. He is proud to have the only bread oven of its kind in the UK, baking his ‘sangak’ flatbreads on a rotating bed of little stones heated by flames. He came to Sheffield over 10 years ago and opened his bakery two and a half years ago. At first he complimented the baking with an Iranian grocery but this summer changed his business model to a deli offering coffee, tea and sandwiches with fillings such as pistachio salami and Persian meat patties.
Despite being in the heart of one of the most affluent areas in Sheffield, the shopkeepers of Banner Cross are struggling, with reports of sales down by up to 50%. For this year’s Small Business Saturday, Peter Gilbert from Ecclesall Green Party wanted to shine the spotlight on one of these businesses, and spent a morning talking with Karim and his customers. “These are my local shops,” says Peter, “I want them to thrive. Variety is the spice of life and I was very excited when the Persian Bakery opened close to my house. I also thought it was brave as it opened during Covid.”
Karim says that business has been difficult and the cost of living crisis is only making things worse. He worries that he will have to close, which would be a great loss to Sheffield’s significant Iranian community and all the local residents that have got a taste for his unique bread. He said that local businesses’ sales are down by as much as 50%. For him it is down 30% – 40%. Karim said, “At this rate I can only go on for 2 – 3 months. If it doesn’t go up, maybe I am closing.”
In his shop window there are posters relating to Iran’s civil unrest. Asked about them Karim becomes thoughtful. “We have a gathering in the city centre, more than 200 people are coming. They are protesting against our government. This is not just one time, they started two months ago. Every weekend. I have been twice, but not today, I am working.”
As Karim removes hot loaves from his oven Farzaneh Alizdeh who lives in Fulwood comes into the shop smiling. “I am here to buy some bread,” she says. “Fresh bread. This is nostalgic bread actually for us. We used to buy this bread all the time in Iran when we were living there. And now we are lucky to have the same type of bread here. Previously it was brought from other cities, London, Manchester. You know, it’s bread, so you want it fresh. So, yeah, that’s why I am here, to get some fresh bread.”
Next in line are the Evans family of Nether Edge: Oscar, Katherine and their 2-year-old Cedric. They have been many times before and say it is the fantastic bread that keeps them coming back for more. “I’ve got a slightly Middle Eastern inspired brunch that we are going to cook with halloumi and garlic mushrooms and eggs and stuff when we get home” says Oscar. “The bread is just the perfect accompaniment. I might make a lamb curry, dipping the bread in there so, yeah, it just kinda goes with a lot of the kind of weekend cuisine that we were hoping to eat.”
Katherine says of the bakery, “It has changed since we were last in. It was more like a shop, whereas now they are selling sandwiches. It looks delicious and I love all the dips that they make. They have an aubergine dip and really good hummus. We’ve seen around the area lots of small business closing, independent business, so it’s nice to keep them alive”
After the customers have gone Karim shows Peter his bins behind the shop. They are full of leftover bread; it doesn’t keep long and if it isn’t sold it is thrown out. Peter says that he will connect Karim up with one of the city’s food waste upcycling projects, like Food Works Sheffield, that offer a free collection service to food businesses with stock they are not able to make use of.
Peter Gilbert concludes, “Our small businesses are struggling. We are lucky to have them, they are the backbone of our communities and they add richness to our lives. We need to support them. Shop local. Shop independent. Rather than buying your bread in plastic packaging from a supermarket, get it freshly baked.”