FOR businesses that launched just before the pandemic, it has been particularly tough to adapt to an ever-changing landscape without a long-standing reputation to fall back on. 

Launched in 2019, this has been the case for the husband-and-wife owned 'Health Shack'; a healthy cafe and meal prep business at the top end of Bradshawgate.

With a long-held desire to start his own business, Gary Glazebrook grabbed at the opportunity to take over the town centre unit four years ago, as he swapped an office life for a family food business.

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Leigh Journal: Health Shack prides itself on tasty, healthy mealsHealth Shack prides itself on tasty, healthy meals (Image: Health Shack)

With a busy menu full of fresh products, Health Shack quickly made a name for itself after its launch but struggled to retain this momentum throughout pandemic lockdowns, while only receiving one small grant to help pay the bills.

Gary, who is now based in Atherton, said: "The only reason we have survived is because of repeated custom.

"There seems to be no rhyme or reason in town. Some days it can be really busy and the next it's so quiet. It feels like people aren't coming into the town centre anymore. 

"Business is only just getting back to how it was before the pandemic, so without our repeat custom and meal preps, I don't think we would have survived."

Leigh Journal: Meal prep lunches have been a big help for the businessMeal prep lunches have been a big help for the business (Image: Health Shack)

With food prices going up 45 percent since Health Shack was launched, the business has kept a tight team of just Gary and his partner, while also reducing its opening times from six to four days a week.

And while the husband and wife team have been forced to increase meal prices, they said that this is "nowhere near" the rate of inflation and have had to watch their electricity usage and take certain items off the menu to save cash where they can.

After the struggles thrown at the new business throughout the pandemic and cost of living crisis, Gary also said it has been a struggle to attract walk-in customers in Leigh, as more people choose to shop at retail parks and avoid places without free parking.

Replacing the car park at the top end of Bradshawgate for housing developments, for example, was a "nail in the coffin" for high street businesses like Health Shack, Gary said.

Leigh Journal: The former car park being turned into houses on Brown StreetThe former car park being turned into houses on Brown Street (Image: Google Maps)

Gary added: "It was a huge leap of faith to launch the business [...] but it has been a challenge. We get on with it but we have had to massively adapt since we've been here.

"There's a sense of pride in owning your own business, and we've really been helped by word of mouth, but we're seriously considering our future when our lease runs out next year."

Leigh Journal: Health Shack, on BradshawgateHealth Shack, on Bradshawgate (Image: Leigh Journal)

With free weekend parking at council-owned car parks, such as Spinning Gate shopping centre, Wigan Council said that its parking charges demonstrate "excellent value for money" with income supporting the running of the facilities and clean air initiatives.