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Famous Leeds butcher Malcolm Michaels ditching 'damp squib' Kirkgate Market for new shop

By Samuel Port

Leeds’s ‘most famous’ butcher wants customers to come to his new shop after he ditches Kirkgate Market, which he slammed as a “damp squib”.

Malcolm Leary, 53, who runs Malcolm Michaels Quality Butchers can barely contain his excitement for the new shop in Crossgates Shopping Centre. The store will open on Friday, May 13, the proud butcher dismisses any superstitions about the opening date.

He said he was glad to be seeing the back of the city-centre market, where he’s been working for 40 years, even though he had to walk away from a “£200,000 investment”. He’s been described as Leeds’ ‘most famous’ butcher due a range of charitable campaigns and large online social media following.

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His market stall will be closing on Thursday, the day before the new shop opens. He also has plans to open a second new shop in the former Bonmarché in Kirkgate but it’s currently unclear when that will be opening, with Malcolm estimating about six months as they haven’t signed the lease yet.

Malcolm Leary (left) and Michael Saynor have been working hard renovating the new shop, it will be ready for opening on Friday (Samuel Port)

His whole team will be moving over to the Crossgates shop without any grand event, banners, balloons or party poppers, but Malcolm promises there will be quality meat and great customer service at his new shop.

The big move stems from Malcolm’s dissatisfaction with the closure of Butcher’s Row, which once featured 19 butcher shops. Once he leaves the market, there will only be two butchers left there. When he moved from the row to his stall in 2016, he claims the council made a series of false promises and “mis-sold” the stall to them.

Malcolm said: “We made a £200,000 investment in 2016 and we’ve literally had to walk away from, simply because we were just going to lose it. Kirkgate Market has just been a damp squib, that development has been a waste of their money and our money. The best way to get back at them is for this new shop to be really successful.”

The Malcolm Michaels team announcing they were leaving Kirkgate Market in March with a massive banner (Samuel Port)

Malcolm says they’d spent £200,000 on new units for the stall and paid £10,000 a month, after being promised to be in the entrance of a new fresh produce centre, with 50 rotating shops which "never materialised". He says the new shop in Crossgates will be a fifth cheaper, plus business rates.

'Big family'

The 53-year-old describes his business as a “big family which we’re not splitting up”. Malcolm runs it with business partner Adrian Thorp, they employ their sons Marcus and Nathan, respectively, and say their other employees are pretty much like family, they’ve been with them that long.

One man coming back into the fold is Malcolm’s uncle Michael Saynor, 70, who he started the business with in 1993. He is where the second half of the brand name ‘Malcolm Michaels’ comes from and is the butcher in their logo. Michael has been a "father figure" to Malcolm his whole life.

Michael and Malcolm in front of the new shop in Crossgates Shopping Centre, which will be opening on Friday, May 13 (Samuel Port)

Michael will be back behind the counter in the new shop but insists he’s only helping out. He said: “I am 100 per cent retired but because we’ve got so far behind and Malcolm was struggling to get it back on track, I said ‘look, I’ll come in and help take the burden off you’.

“This is not my baby at all. I’ll be in the shop every morning but I’ll be going home early every day, just after lunch.”

Michael sold his stake in the business to Malcolm years ago but his wife Anne still retains 20 per cent of the business.

The pair are excited to get new customers into the shop, which they’re currently working hard to renovate. They will be incorporating a deli counter, to compliment the meat products on options, with cheeses sourced from Lancashire, made at an artisan cheese farm, and a variety of pies. They’re quick to add the meat is all locally sourced, from Barnsley, Rawdon and Halifax.

Malcolm Leary had been working in Kirkgate Market for 40 years (Samuel Port)

Malcolm made assurances their meat prices won’t be changing as the cost of living crisis continues, he said: “Like everyone says about the cost of meat going up, we haven’t gone up because there’s no logistics involved with us. We’ll be going down in price. The bigger companies often use haulage, there’s no haulage involved with us. There’s no haulage. The furthest meat comes is Barnsley.”

They’ve also said Crossgates Shopping Centre offers cheaper parking than Kirkgate Market, with prices at £1.20 for up to two hours, and are satisfied that it’s much busier.

Asked what else sets their shop apart, Michael said: “It’s all about the people here, you’ll get the same quality meat in a load of places but it’s how it’s sold to you.

“This shop won’t just be a load of cooked meat that you’ve got to just buy. If you ask for two pork chops, we’ll give you two pork chops. We started off as a traditional butchers and this is going to be a traditional butchers again.”

'We've supported traders," says Leeds City Council

Kirkgate Market entrance in Leeds City Centre (Samuel Port)

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “An indoor unit at Leeds Kirkgate Market can be rented from £28.75 up to £57 per square meter. The cost varies depending on the location of the unit within the market. Annual rents on a single unit basis range from £2,000pa up to a maximum of £34,314pa for our very largest unit, these prices exclude service charge which reflects costs associated with operating the market e.g. energy and waste costs.

“The council has supported traders with rent concessions in place for the past 18 months which equates to just over £1m to help support our market traders, this has included both indoor, outdoor and district market traders. This discount has further reduced the rent payable by traders from the range set out above.”

“Over the past two years, all traders were able to access free social media training from the team at Leeds Boost. This was funded by the council to help them promote their businesses across the social media channels to a wider audience. Most recently the market has partnered with Goodsixty who are an online fresh food delivery service giving market traders the ability to compete with the supermarkets and enable new and existing customers to have their fresh food delivered to their door.”

“Looking ahead, the council is confident that Leeds Kirkgate Market will remain an attractive and exciting retail destination for potential new businesses and continue to support the development of more local innovators and entrepreneurs through the use of low-cost pop-up opportunities, and defined spaces for new products and services.”

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Dive Deeper:
Leeds family overwhelmed as grandma turns 60 after being given just a year to live
Her daughter, who will be running in Race for Life for her mum, said she 'feels lucky'
Struggling Leeds mum dressing baby in 'more and more clothes' to keep warm as energy bills soar
Greta Bubneliene has seen her energy bill double and says she's struggling to 'live a normal life'
Mum dressing baby in 'more and more clothes' to keep warm as energy bills soar
Greta Bubneliene, 29, from Seacroft, Leeds, is having to put more layers on her baby Lily as she can't afford…
Leeds drivers told to take the bus or cycle as more roadworks to cause traffic misery
Leeds City Council warned drivers who use Bishopgate and Neville Street to commute into the centre it may be best…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Families vow to boycott Leeds' Kirkstall Abbey after it introduces controversial £5 entry fee
People from outside of Leeds council tax paying areas will have to pay for entry to the Medieval Abbey
Queen's Baton Relay for Commonwealth Games 2022 to come to Leeds as full route unveiled
The baton has travelled across the world ahead of the Commonwealth Games
Get all your news in one place