Nestled down Calvert Avenue of Arnold Circus you’ll find a traditional greengrocer that champions food cultivation, consumption, and community integrity.
A trestle table stacked high with sunset hues of citrus fruits, wide windows bordered with brown bags of flour, and overspilling shelves that look to be sprouting their own broccoli. There is no mistaking where you are: Leila’s Shop.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary as Leila’s last year, the building has a long legacy as a greengrocer’s. Propped up by a veiny blue Stilton, Leila shows me a black and white photograph of the Raymond family, the original owners. Albert Raymond opened his greengrocers in 1900, passing it down to his son who ran the shop until he died in 1966.
The north-facing windows invite a through-flow of air; the building is purpose-built to be a greengrocer, able to stay cool all year long.
And don’t I know it – the door is wide open, welcoming neighbours and visitors alike inside to see her selection of seasonal goodies. Keeping warm in her knitted blue hat, Leila flits in and out from behind her counter, parcelling customers’ groceries while they hunt around her harvest.
Seasonal and local produce is what Leila’s Shop stands for. The shelves are stocked directly by small growers who share a passion for locally-sourced produce, good soil, and considerate cultivation.
There’s a one-in-one-out shopper policy, which Leila’s maintained since the pandemic, as hers is one of the only shops some medically-vulnerable residents will go to. As I chat with her, a man waits by the shopfront. I step outside. “Hi Cliff!” she says, chatting away while showing him her stock of cheeses.
The neighbourhood nook includes a cafe that Leila started in the building next door 13 years ago. Inside, plumes of peppery pies mull through the room, the scent cut through by the sweet acidity of blood-orange jelly. The kitchen is open, forming a cooking-dining space that is as honest as the dishes being prepared. Swirls of chalkboard lettering tell you what’s for lunch. Every day is different because here, the seasons decide the menu. Every few minutes the chefs wander in from the shop, fingers bunched around fresh herbs and muddied root vegetables.
Perhaps the most unique yet simple trait of the cafe is the tiffin tins. From coffee to cakes, takeaway doesn’t exist at Leila’s unless it is in a reusable tub. Indeed, swinging through the door every few minutes is a local in search of lunch, hopeful hands clutched around a silver stack of tins which you can buy, alongside other local makers’ wares in the shop.
Leila’s Shop champions conscious food cultivation, consumption, and community integrity. I left in high-seasonal spirits with three green winter Marinda tomatoes, a chunk of local goat cheese, and a belly full of spiced split-pea soup.
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