AFTER nearly 35 years toiling over a hot range Mike and Robbie Norris are getting ready to call it a day on the oldest cafe in town.
“We don’t really want to retire, but need a magic wand to make us young again,” said Mike, 60.
He met Glaswegian Roberta, aged 67, when he was Woolworth’s deputy manager and she was stockroom boss at the chain’s Oldham branch but after promotion and a move to Blackpool they decided to set up shop in Tyldesley where Mike’s family has deep roots.
“We arrived in 1978 and could write a book about our times here,” said Mike.
“Some of the stories would seem like works of fiction. There have been times of joy and times of sorrow. Over 35 years the town has lost many of its old characters, most of whom were very close friends.”
The white and red cafe is one of the most familiar – and oldest buildings in town. It dates back to 1775 and originally was divided into seven sub sections in Elliott Street and Lime Street.
Part of the Lime Street section was a pub, the Commercial, and number 30, a fish and chip shop from around 1850.
The chip shop was relocated to the front corner in 1945 when Frank Goodwin opened it as Frank’s Cafe. In the mid-50s miner Frank Glover took over then the business was rented out from 1967 until 1978 when Mike and Robbie took over.
“We restored it as a 1950s retro cafe with period seating from Victoria Railway Station,” explained Mike, whose father Thomas was station master at Leigh in the early 1960s and the youngest station master with British Rail before becoming area manager based at Victoria.
Mike’s grandfather was station master at Astley and Glazebury and his great-great grandfather John Kay managed the Yew Tree Pit in Tyldesley and was killed in 1895 in an explosion there.
The cafe is technically a pub with a 5am drinks licence for off and on the premises and is currently up for sale.
“Despite being up for sale at a bargain price for three months no offers to buy have been forthcoming,” said Mike.
“We have been inundated with offers wanting to rent. So despite retirement pending it’s not going to happen overnight.
“We’ll be around for at least the next six months.”