Historic Sheffield store remains a sweet surprise for shoppers

With multi-million pound investments and new developments reshaping the face of Sheffield, parts of the city centre are unrecognisable from what they looked like a decade ago.

But on the periphery, some of the old remains. Granelli’s, like a faithful servant to the community, has been selling traditional ice creams and sweets on Broad Lane for more than 140 years.

Originally set up as an ice cream shop by two brothers in the old Italian quarter of the city in the 1870s, they quickly relocated to the present site and expanded the business to sell sweets. Since then, the company has remained in the family and is currently presided over by Julian Granelli, the fifth generation of management. On top of a brigade of ice cream vans, the shop also has two stalls at the Moor market.

The store today

When Julian was born in it 36 years ago, Granelli’s, situated between the Park Hill and Hyde Park estates, was bustling with customers. But after the flats were emptied out in the late nineties, the area changed forever.

This meant fewer of its customers could travel the distance from their new homes and a period of house-building stagnancy left them without new customers to appeal to.

When I visit Julian at the store on a cold December afternoon, the store is noticeably quiet.

However, there are still long-time regulars who remain loyal out of nostalgia for saccharine memories. As Julian says: “It brings back great memories for them with the old sweets which you can’t get any more so people come in and say ‘I remember having that when I was a kid’.”

Despite the regeneration of the area, the store still looks much the same as it did for the majority of the last century.

The outside facade features the same “Old-fashioned spice at an old-fashioned price” sign. The window display is as magnificently gaudy and techni-coloured as it was in the 1970s. Behind the counter are bags of sugar, tea bags and packets of cigarettes lined up on a wooden shelf for customers who refuse to stock up on their essentials at supermarkets.

Julian adds: “People say don’t change, don’t refurbish, don’t revamp. So we don’t, we stick with it. Even though it might need a lick of paint or whatever. You stick with it because it’s what people come to expect when they come in.”

Tradition is reflected in the sourcing of the stock too. Sweets are from speciality factories in Yorkshire and of the varieties that you just couldn’t get on the shelves at Tesco. Cola cubes, mint rock, pear drops and the like line the walls like a live confectionery museum. Older customers visit to stock up on old-fashioned fudges and bring their grandchildren who stare, mesmerised, at the sight of hundreds of cola bottles in jars rather than flimsy packets.

The store 45 years ago

Perhaps its owner too is a testament to a bygone time.

Julian is sceptical about the potential of the redeveloped Park Hill flats to bring new faces into the store. But he could be in for a sweet surprise.

With independent, niche businesses that offer an experience on the rise in recent years as a consumerist antidote to the monotony of profit-driven chain stores, the younger generation moving to the area may flock to it.

And, what makes Granelli’s stand apart from pop-up burger joints or organic coffee shops, is that it isn’t posturing as a part of the community, it is ingrained into it. As Julian adds: “When you say Broad Street, people say ‘Oh Granelli’s on the corner.’ And they always say, when we go, the street goes.”