Yorkshire Blankets at Bird’s Yard, photo by Jill Theobald

Bird’s Yard takes flight with second Sheffield store

Sheffield Unchained contributor Jill Theobald met founder Michelle Walton to find out how the brand is getting dressed for success. From appetising preserves to zombie bookends – Bird’s Yard has established itself as a go-to independent outlet for the A-Z of quirky and alternative merchandise with a difference in Sheffield.

Mellor Ware ceramics, Just Preserves jams and chutneys and Pink Flamingo keyrings and trinkets are just a handful of the independent city brands all under the one roof – or taken under the ‘wing’ – of Bird’s Yard founder Michelle Walton.

Bird's Yard sign, courtesy of Bird's Yard

Bird’s Yard sign, courtesy of Bird’s Yard

Michelle originally took over the former Oasis shop on Chapel Walk after receiving funding for a year from Sheffield City Council who wanted her to bring the experience, enthusiasm and eye for products with a difference she gained running the original Bird’s Yard in Leeds.

The business model is to help small businesses – that’s the main aim, getting the right tenants in and supporting them as much as I can.

There are a few more ‘gimmicky’ bits we order in, but between seventy and eighty per cent of our stock is sourced locally in Yorkshire or from Sheffield itself, wherever we can.

The 41-year-old has a wealth of experience that has seen her win a number of awards in vintage, retail and design. She has also been recognised by ‘High Street Guru’ Mary Portas which helped her develop the Bird’s Yard  brand – named because of Michelle’s nickname of ‘Bird’ – even further.

Inside Bird's Yard, courtesy of Bird's Yard

Inside Bird’s Yard, photo courtesy of Bird’s Yard

She reports that her Leeds shop had won a lot of awards in an up-and-coming area and after that the other brands moved in too. Michelle said that there was a real sense of loyalty among city shoppers, and she wanted to buy into the footfall in Sheffield city centre, and being just off Fargate was a good position.

When we closed for a couple of days, for the move across Chapel Walk, people were banging on the door asking what was happening!

Michelle is now ready for the next stage of Bird’s Yard’s development…

She says a thick skin and a lot of stamina is needed to run an enterprise like Bird’s Yard, but it has been a great education for her and she got a lot out of it.

After the council funding ended, Michelle had to ensure she had the right tenants in, with the right variety of products. She says moving to a smaller unit across the way on Chapel Walk helped but she is always careful not to dilute the Bird’s Yard brand too much by taking just ‘anyone’ on or too many people with similar products.

Now Bird’s Yard is expanding with a second shop ‘Birds and Beards’ – selling original and vintage female and male clothing and accessories – three doors down on Chapel Walk.

Clothes at Bird's Yard, photo by Jill Theobald

Original and Vintage clothes at Bird’s Yard, photo by Jill Theobald

I think it will be a really good offering in the city. Sheffield needs an outlet selling really ‘individual’ clothes.

In the meantime, Michelle is turning her attention towards the Christmas market and hoping to tap into the student market too – and the signs look good. As I leave the shop and Michelle closes the door behind me to chair a meeting of potential new tenants, two young girls in their late teens walk by and one says to the other…

Have you been in there? It’s my FAVOURITE shop!

Halloween gifts at Bird's Yard, photo by Jill Theobald

Halloween gifts at Bird’s Yard, photo by Jill Theobald