Chron visits northern market town to get inspiration for Northampton's Market Square
The butchers, the bakers and the craft beer makers '“ Altrincham's Market House and covered outdoor market has been a catalyst for town centre change.
It's been a cheerless time for Northampton's high street - but are all town centre's on their knees? In a bid to find a solution to Northampton town centre's gloominess the Chronicle & Echo visited a market town in the north to see how they turned their ghost town into a boom town.
After a Â£200,000 revamp, using council and private cash, Altrincham’s grade II listed Market House has become one of the hottest spots in Greater Manchester to be a foodie.After husband and wife Nick Johnson and Jenny Thompson took on the unloved Market House back in 2013, as well as the outdoor market, they were daunted by the mammoth task that lay ahead of them.So how did they get a market – with just eight traders – back on its feet?The 19th century covered market, similar to Northampton’s, played host to underwear sellers and greetings card stands while Market House often saw toilet roll sellers, and traded on Saturday mornings and Tuesdays only.The pair, who were parents to four small children at the time when they took on the project, were asked by leader of Trafford Borough Council Matt Colledge to privately operate the market using Nick’s vision as a town centre generator with 25 years in the business.After reluctantly taking both markets on the pair, who invested Â£100,000 of their own money, were not expecting the success that lay ahead of them.The 180-seater Market House dining hall, next to Altrincham’s covered market, is now home to 10 of the region’s finest independent food and drink sellers, from pizza maker to craft beer sellers and a chocolaterie. Meanwhile the outdoor market close by plays host to a independent shopping experience with a quality butchers, home-made pottery stall, and jewellery stand, among others.
But success did not happen overnight for the Hale pair, who had never before visited Altrincham in 25 years. It was a five-year labour of love.
Jenny said: “I really thought I would be able to approach people and they would come. “But when I said to them: ‘would you come to Altrincham market?’ they said: ‘you’ve got to be joking’.
"It went on and on and I would say probably some Saturdays and Sundays I would have scraped together eight traders.” The couple, who are both from market towns themselves, wanted the market to be for everyone and anyone, whatever the weather. “We set out to be a celebration of the best produce and producers in the north west, all in one place, not necessarily food," Jenny added.“The idea behind Market House was somewhere for people to meet and eat locally produced and sourced food while shopping at the market.
"We set out to make the whole market feel inclusive and everyone is made to feel welcome.
"We have three members of staff with differing special needs who work with us too.”
Now Altrincham Market is bustling with 60 traders, depending on the day, and Market House feeds 10,000 hungry bellies a week.Not only has it been successful in its own right but it is now a hub, which has been a catalyst for kick-starting a cafe culture nearby.
“Matt Colledge [former leader of Trafford Borough Council] was right to say that it was a market town.
"The centre of a town is the market so that was the place to start,” Jenny added.