Sarah Cotterill chats to Will Smith, Harpo’s founder's nephew, about his ambitions for the future
Students of the eighties will remember Harpo’s takeaway with its bold red and green shop front and hanging plants, right in the middle of Headingley. Established by Bob and Sandra Salder in 1978, it was a popular haunt for locals young and old, serving up pizza, pasta and burgers inspired by a holiday the couple took to Hawaii.
At the time, the only real takeaway option was Kentucky Fried Chicken; Italian cuisine was reserved for the formal restaurants of the city centre. Bob and Sandra even struggled to get hold of the square pizza delivery boxes now synonymous with a Saturday night in front of the telly.
Harpo’s Pizza is a family business, we treat the staff like family, and our customers are like family
As the appetite for convenience food grew, chains such as Dominos and Pizza Hut started to spring up in Leeds, but Harpo’s stood proud, determined to slice up the freshest ingredients on the market.
“What's really important to both myself and Bob, is that our core values and quality will never change.”
Speaking to Will, it’s clear how much the opportunity means to him. “Harpo’s Pizza is a family business, we treat the staff like family, and our customers are like family who have grown with us over the generations. We feel so lucky.”
Forty years young
Forty years on, Harpo’s has left the Otley runners behind, but still uses the exact same dough recipe from the eighties to hand stretch its recognisable pizzas. It's expanded to three sites: Street Lane, Burley Road and Falsgrave Crescent in York.
The green vintage lettering has remained, with the addition of shining white metro tiles, filament bulbs and terrazzo countertops. Long wooden pizza paddles balance above its thirty-year-old Blodgett oven, which reaches a whopping 350 degrees to bake an average of 170 pizzas each night on a weekend.
A new era
As Bob and Sandra enjoy their much-deserved retirement, Will, who has memories of crawling under the tables to help his Grandma clean the shop, aged just six, feels he was destined to take over the business. As soon as he’d passed his driving test, he was out delivering around North Leeds, and despite a new wave of fans enjoying Harpo’s unique creations via Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats, Will’s plans for expansion don’t detract from the takeaway’s community and authenticity.
The team has recently collaborated with Horsforth Brewery to create a refreshing Harpo’s pilsner, and Harpo's stocks cans from North Brewing Company, based down the road in Meanwood. Meats come from the friendly local butcher, R.P Setchfield.
Despite an explosion of pizzerias across the region, Will is determined to keep the prices reasonable, whilst incorporating new flavours into the menu, and celebrating Yorkshire produce. The house-made tomato sauce is 100% vegan, with a plant-based cheese alternative available on any of the 40-plus choices.
“As we move into our new era, we would like to open another couple of shops and open our own Garden Kitchen where we can grow organic produce. Sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint is important to us and the future of Harpo’s.”
Harpo's Pizza, 147 Street Lane, Roundhay, Leeds, LS8 1AA (opened 1978)
Harpo's PIzza, 309 Burley Road, Burley, Leeds, LS4 2HY (opened 2019)
Harpo's Pizza York, 1 Falsgrave Crescent, York, YO30 7AZ (opened 2019)
Follow Sarah on Twitter @scottnodot
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