£250,000 re-launch for cafe

Margaret and Martin Downes pictured opposite their new Park Road business.
Margaret and Martin Downes pictured opposite their new Park Road business.

A CAFE which closed with the loss of 16 jobs is set to soon re-open at a new location following a £250,000 facelift.

Eugene’s cafe, which was formerly located at the back of the old Westgate’s store, in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, closed its doors to customers in September last year due to financial problems of re-locating the business to the other end of the complex.

But the Downes family, which run the business, promised to bounce back and re-open.

Martin, 62, Margaret, 55, and Andrea Downes, 28, have kept to their word and are almost ready to open the doors to customers old and new at Eugene’s new Park Road premises, the former Gillen’s Sports Bar building which was also formerly the old Labour Club and a dance hall.

They have also taken on six of their old staff and about 14 new workers will be recruited at the site after spending a quarter of a million pounds gutting and refurbishing it.

Martin, who has been inundated with about 200 job application forms for the new cafe, is delighted that Eugene’s will be back open for business – hopefully in about three weeks time.

He told the Mail: “To close the old Eugene’s and lose our staff and customers was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.

“But it just wasn’t going to be viable, what with the cost of refurbishing the unit in Middleton Grange and then having to pay yearly running costs of £136,000.

“We just couldn’t do it.

“It was horrible for the staff and horrible for the customers, because these people are like friends, some of whom we see every day, or even twice a day.”

He added: “It feels absolutely great to be back.

“We were at the bottom of the well and now we’ve popped our heads back over the top.

“After a lot of blood, sweat, and tears we are looking forward to our new venture and welcoming back our very loyal customers.”

Martin, who lives at Wynyard with his family and has been running cafe businesses in Hartlepool since 1980, said the whole building was gutted in preparation for their project and as a result up to 220 customers will be able to enjoy some tasty grub.

There is even an upstairs function room – which can cater for 220 people – for parties, fairs, dinners and Christmas bookings, which will also act as an overflow should the downstairs room get too full.

A lift has also been installed to take pushchairs, disabled, elderly or infirm people up to the second floor.

The Downes say they cannot wait to start serving up their home made foods including pies, quiches, scones, and cakes, and their popular frothy coffee.

There is a separate business, also known as Eugene’s, run by the family in Seaham, which is still operating.