ON the way out of Leigh town centre lies a much-loved gem of the community; well-known for its speciality coffee, adorned walls of music memorabilia, and community-friendly atmosphere.

Over the past seven years, the Coffee Stop at Railway Road has built a cherished and trendy reputation but unpredictable levels of footfall have made owner Neil Fallows begin to question the longevity of the business.

Despite attracting regulars, councillors, and even celebrity guests over the years (Eddie Izzard for those wondering!), the music-themed coffee shop has not been immune from the knock-on effects of the cost of living crisis, pandemic, and changing high street trends.

READ > Passionate' music venue celebrated in borough-wide music exhibition

Family-run coffee shop a 'real community hub'

Leigh Journal: A collection of musical memorabilia adorning the Coffee Stop's wallsA collection of musical memorabilia adorning the Coffee Stop's walls (Image: Leigh Journal)

Neil, a policeman-turned-barista, said: "I love running the coffee shop, it's a family business that has turned into a real community hub.

"We have some cracking regulars that keep us going but I've never known a more unpredictable pattern of footfall at the minute.

"Sometimes we'll get a mad rush and there's only two of us in, so the next day we'll get more staff in but then it's quiet again.

"With the prices of everything going up, it's killing us because you never know what you're going to get."

Business closures affecting footfall on Railway Road

Leigh Journal: Neglected parts of Railway Road have affected footfall, business owners feelNeglected parts of Railway Road have affected footfall, business owners feel (Image: Leigh Journal)

Despite retaining a core group of regulars at the coffee shop, Neil said there has been a "definite drop off" in footfall since opening in 2016.

This is a consequence, he feels, due to the closure of banks and businesses around Railway Road, the neglected state of the street, and changing shopping habits since the pandemic.

This sentiment that is shared by Joanne Leeson, owner of Jo's Cakery a few doors down from Neil's coffee shop.

With passing trade not the same since before the pandemic, Joanne said that her wedding cake and event business would not be able to survive if it wasn't for her online custom.

Leigh Journal: Joanne Leeson, owner of Jo's Cakery on Railway RoadJoanne Leeson, owner of Jo's Cakery on Railway Road (Image: Leigh Journal)

Little things to improve passing trade?

For Neil, live music and charity events in the building's upstairs space are some ways that he has attracted more people to the venue, but he suggested that "little things" could go a long way in improving footfall for Railway Road businesses.

Leigh Journal: The live music space above the Coffee StopThe live music space above the Coffee Stop (Image: Leigh Journal)

He added: "There is no instant fix for problems like this, but I think little things like better signage, free or relaxed parking, and general street improvements could encourage more businesses to invest in the empty shops and pull more people in.

"The people are quality in Leigh and I think there is real potential for change here, but until then we have just got to keep doing the best we can and crack on."

Leigh Journal: The Coffee Stop at Railway RoadThe Coffee Stop at Railway Road (Image: Leigh Journal)