Story and photos by Niel Black – HF Journalist & Resident
‘We first came to the JQ in March 2017. My wife’s job was relocating and we were looking for a new home. We had decided to live centrally and had initially explored around Brindley Place and the canal but found it too touristy. Someone suggested looking around the Jewellery Quarter and so we went to investigate.
It didn’t take long to discover where we wanted to live. Turning into Regent Place, a road in the very heart of the JQ, we came across a very sorry looking Grade II listed derelict former silverworks factory, called the Squirrel Works.
It was built circa 1912 and was just about to begin its transformation into three apartments, a town house, and an office. We managed to convince the developer to sell us one of the apartments off plan and they even allowed us to have input into some of the design.
The Soda Bread Café
It is quite easy to fall under the spell of the JQ and the wonderful independent businesses, like the Soda Bread Café, play an enormous part in making it such a special place to live. While we waited for our apartment to be completed, my wife was having to come up for meetings and I would come up with her to explore the city and the JQ. In November 2016 we got Digby, an eleven-week-old Cockapoo and he joined us on our day trips.
The result was we needed to find a dog friendly café, which is how we discovered the Soda Bread café.
The owner, Elisabeth made us feel very welcome and made such a fuss over Digby. This was a new experience for him, and he got overly excited, barking away like his life depended on it. As new dog owners we were horrified and apologised to Elisabeth about disturbing her other customers. Elisabeth didn’t bat an eyelid and told us not to worry. To this day Digby tries to pull us in to the Soda Bread Café every time we pass.
Move forward to 2020 and we see many businesses across the country stutter to a halt, thanks to Coronavirus, relying on Government payments to get them through. The Soda Bread café decided to go a different route, remaining open and choosing to support the local community, providing takeaways.
With the St Paul’s convenience store, next door, shutting down and supermarkets not only having long socially distanced queues but shortages of some essential items, Soda Bread has stepped up, sourcing bread, eggs, face masks and other elusive items that are hard to find, as well organising deliveries to vulnerable local residents.
When the current crisis is over, I hope that people remember what Soda Bread and other independent JQ establishments did to help the local community.
If only for selfish reasons we should support them because it is these independent shops, cafés and businesses help make the JQ such a wonderful place to live, work and visit.