Why cafe culture isn’t everyone’s cup of tea
DEBATE RAGES OVER WHETHER CHANGING FACE OF TRENDY RAMSBOTTOM’S HIGH STREET IS POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE
IT is a debate that does not look like going away any time soon in one of the trendier parts of Greater Manchester.
Regularly hailed as one of the best places to live in the north west, Ramsbottom’s picturesque location and close proximity to Manchester have made it a popular spot for young professionals looking to start a family.
To cater for the new demographic moving to the area, a series of bars, cafes and restaurants have sprouted up in recent years.
While the influx has been welcomed by some, others resent the changes and fear the town is in danger of losing its character.
And James Pritchard knows firmly which side he sits on.
“It’s becoming a town full of bars and cafes,” says the 26-year-old, whose family runs an ice cream shop, Mrs P’s Luxury Ice Cream, in Ramsbottom’s Market Place.
“Ramsbottom is seen as a wealthy area and a nice place to live, which attracts people to open these kinds of businesses, but there’s so many now that it’s unsustainable.”
One of the most recent additions to the town is Amelia’s, a cafe which opened on Bolton Street in the heart of the town last month.
Meanwhile, plans to turn the former RBS branch in Bridge Street into a restaurant and bar also emerged recently, and were met with a mixed reaction from residents.
Ramsbottom resident Michelle Badja was one of those who objected to the proposals.
She said: “I suggest enough is enough, we need more than just restaurants and bars in Ramsbottom. We need a book shop or more clothing/tourist type outlets for diversity before we are only good for beer/ food or getting your nails done.”
Meanwhile, Patricia Bennett said she feels the town is ‘losing its heart.’
She added: “I just wonder how many more bars and cafes Ramsbottom needs. It used to have a good variety of shops but not any more.
“Having basically what is becoming a night time economy must be very hard on people who live in the town centre. I want to see Ramsbottom prosper but in a more interesting and diverse way.”
As Ramsbottom’s stock has surged, people who might previously have chosen to move to places such as Didsbury or Chorlton are opting to settle there.
And as demand to live in the town has increased, so have house prices.
The fact that the boom in new restaurants, bars and boutiques has come as traditional high street businesses, such as butchers, newsagents and banks, continue to fall by the wayside is partly behind people’s concerns.
That may be a national issue stretching far beyond these streets in the shadow of the West Pennine Moors, but it’s a concern for some residents and business owners.
Not everyone is against the changes, though.
Several of the town’s restaurants have been named among the best in the country in recent years, while Spanish duo Baratxuri and Levanter have been named in the Good Food Guide 2020.
Some within the town are glad of the publicity that success brings and believe it helps to attract visitors.
Jason Willett is the owner of Isherwood’s furniture shop, which has called the town home for more than a century.
He said: “There are a lot of cafes and bars opening, but I think it’s brilliant. How can it be a bad thing? You don’t want empty premises and people love coming out to Ramsbottom at night.
“One thing that has changed is that it used to be pubs, whereas now they’re opening trendy wine
bars. I don’t think the town has changed all that much. The high street here is still up with the best in the country.”
While dozens of national chains can be found in the shopping centres down the road in Bury, Ramsbottom has always prided itself on being a tight-knit community that supports independent businesses.
But within the last decade, a number of supermarkets have opened stores in the town, while the arrival of a Starbucks drive-thru earlier this year was met by resistance from some locals.
As some of the town’s more traditional businesses have shut, more contemporary ones are replacing them. This is in contrast to other parts of the region, where empty shops have become an increasingly common sight.
Salons, a bridal shop and a cake shop are among those to open in Ramsbottom within the last year, reflecting the changing nature of the British high street.
Another new addition is Plentiful, a ‘plastic-free’ shop that opened in Silver Street last year.
It has proved such a hit that owner
Abbie Sellers was forced to seek out bigger premises, which she has since found in nearby Bridge Street.
She said: “There are so few towns with independent shops and it’s special when you see somewhere that does.
“A lot of people are appreciating the beauty of the place and moving here because of that.
“It would concern me if the whole town was nighttime places to eat and drink, but the restaurants here have put Ramsbottom on the map as a foodie place. If they are the type opening then so be it because they’ll bring people in.” While it may be in the midst of change, Ramsbottom does still have its quirks. Every September, the town plays host to the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships, where participants toss black puddings in an attempt to dislodge a stack of Yorkshire puddings.
A nod to the centuries-old rivalry between the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, it shows that tradition still has a place in the town’s heart.
But as Ramsbottom’s streets continue to evolve, the battle for its future is only going to rage on.
Independent retailers in Ramsbottom are proving fashionable with the local community and those travelling from neighbouring towns
Local illustrator Imogen Richards, who has decorated many of the shop’s windows on the high street Abbie Sellers of Plentiful Plastic Free Shop Jimmy Needham, 79, with his coffee cup topped up by Chocolate Cafe The Smith family visit from Radcliffe. L-R: Julian, 49; Ruby, 12; Noah, four; and Theo, seven