As the place of my birth, upbringing, and the location of all of my teenage triumphs and failings, I would argue that I am well placed to tell you guys about the essential locations and boutiques you need to visit, should you ever find yourself in Leeds, UK. For those that are unaware, Leeds is the largest and most central town in Yorkshire, which is the England’s biggest county. Yorkshire is beautiful, populated by rolling green fields, hills and picturesque towns, filled with friendly locals and lovingly remodelled remnants from the the area’s bustling industry in the 1800s. Leeds itself has undergone quite a facelift in the last decade, it’s no longer a fading industrial city with a crap football team, but a shining beacon of a modern English city, complete with fantastic independent businesses and residents who are keen and prepared to work hard to create something awesome.
Coffee shop: Mrs Atha’s
There is no doubt in my mind that Mrs Atha’s is Leeds’ best coffee shop, and I’m certainly not just saying that because my friend Scott is the manager and head barista. Oh no. Seriously though, Athas is a trailblazer in Leeds. Where shops of this nature might be two a penny in London, the guys here are casually educating the people of Leeds on what good coffee is, via their own brew, their experience, and a flurry of guest coffees to keep people interested. The food isn’t half bad either. It helps they’re down with Breaks too.
Skate Shop: Welcome Skate Store
Visiting the skate store in Leeds in my youth was a scary experience, some would even argue those first trips are a rite of passage. The city’s only store back then was Wisdom, they used a flip on the Wilson logo and had a sideline selling punk and metal CDs. It was awesome and scary at the same time to my 14-year-old self. Twelve years later and the destination of choice in Leeds is Welcome, an open and friendly environment without the mis-placed air of superiority that some stores adopt. They sell everything, including local heroes The National Skateboard Co. and their own line of tees sporting the “DON’T MESS WITH YORKSHIRE” slogan.
I’m stoked the Welcome guys are doing so well too. The skate scene in Leeds is really big and it was great to see them recently move from their previous space under a record store to occupy the two floor space in the Thornton’s Arcade that they do now.
Bookstore: Village Bookstore
Village Bookstore is located in the beautiful Corn Exchange (pictured above), where they used to – you guessed it – sell corn. The building is from the 1800s, and after the corn trade collapsed, it fell into disrepair. Mercilessly, it was redeveloped in the 1980s as a shopping centre. This building is special to me for many reasons, mainly because it was where I used to buy all my post-hardcore and emo CDs as an angst-ridden teenager, and I also once fooled around in the toilets there with my first girlfriend.
Village does have the best selection of independent magazines and books in Leeds, and I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area. Especially if you love super pretentious magazines like Kinfolk that feature double-page spreads of photos of broccoli.
Streetwear stop: Chimp Store
Chimp is located in the same arcade as Welcome and is the bastion of Northern streetwear outlets, as well as one of The Hundreds’ key accounts in the country. I’m not going to go into too much detail as my friend and the Hundreds UK brand manager Adam Scotland is going to be doing a more in depth feature in the coming months, but know that Chimps owners – brothers Mark and Neil – are streetwear OGs and more than know their shit when it comes to the culture. It helps that they’re nice guys too – it’s no wonder the store has gone from strength to strength in the past couple of years. Long live Chimp!
Also please note, you know those “Dogs Wearing Snapbacks” shoots that everyone has been going in on recently? Chimp did it first. End of argument. If you’re one of the biters, get your own ideas.
Bundobust is a relatively new opening in Leeds, and I honestly haven’t heard the last of it. All of my friends who live in Leeds have been raging about it, and I made sure that on a recent trip back I went to check it out. Bundobust is a vegetarian Indian “street food” spot (I hate that term, when was the last time you saw a Thai food vendor in Bangkok sell an artisan aubergine burger for £9?). It’s run by Yorkshire’s only Michelin-starred Indian chefs. If you think Leeds can’t do Indian food than you’re dead wrong – Indian food and Leeds is like Mexican food and LA. We’re two generations deep in this culture, and our Indian food is the best outside Lahore. Anyone who disagrees obviously hasn’t been to Akbar’s.
For more on Leeds, keep your eyes peeled for Part 2.