A CAFE known for its traditional and homecooked meals has been a welcoming part of Leigh market for more than two decades - although it has seen a "massive difference" during this period.

A long-standing feature of Leigh market, Cafe Central has been one of the most popular units over the past 23 years, and cooks up tasty dishes such as full English breakfasts, fish and chips, burgers and sandwiches, and pies and pastries.

However, like all traders, the cost of living crisis, pandemic, and changing shopping habits have taken their toll on the business, with it now much more difficult to attract the same level of customers as it was two decades ago.

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Leigh Journal: The cafe is well known for its traditional and homecooked mealsThe cafe is well known for its traditional and homecooked meals (Image: Cafe Central)
Speaking about the cafe and market, owner Kathryn Holt said: "We have our good days and bad days, but it is quite up and down now and you can't judge anything.

"It's hard to plan because we might have one busy day and be understaffed, but the next we have staff standing around and have to throw food out."

While Leigh market is still a popular place for many residents and out-of-towners, with a current occupancy rate of around 80%, Kathryn said that there is a "massive difference” compared to when Cafe Central first launched.

The owner, who has raised more than £60,000 for charity during her time at the cafe, suggested that this is down to the rise in online shopping, retail parks, and changes in people's habits after the pandemic.

Although the cafe prides itself on homecooked meals at affordable prices, the cost of living crisis has also had an impact as fewer people are willing to spend their hard-earned cash.

Leigh Journal: A selection of meals at20the cafeA selection of meals at20the cafe (Image: Leigh Journal)

Kathryn added: "There has been a massive difference over the years as the market used to be booming when we first started, with waiting lists to start a stall.

"But covid has been a big thing because a lot of the older generation have passed away or are still frightened of coming out.

"A lot more people [seem to be] spending less too [...] so we don't get the same people coming in anymore."

Leigh Journal: The market is a popular place in the marketThe market is a popular place in the market (Image: Cafe Central)

With the council aware of the difficulties facing traders, the market's refurbishment was a main pillar of its Levelling Up bid last year, which has now been awarded by the government.

While any investment into the market would be welcomed, Kathryn said that traders must be consulted on the plans if everyone is to be happy moving forward.

The cafe owner added: "The market hasn't been touched really for 30 years, so it does need improving.

"But people love the traditional feel of the market here so I hope [the council] doesn't modernise it too much, and the work is done section by section, rather than all at once."