GREG LAMBERT meets a friendly Scouser whose vintage cafe has brought a breath of fresh air to the promenade.
LAST year Michael Bebb was working in Salford, helping ex-cons with drug and alcohol problems.
Today, the Liverpudlian is running a brand new vintage cafe on Morecambe promenade.
It’s quite a career change, and one the 41-year-old is tackling with enthusiasm.
Born in Kirkdale near Liverpool docks, Michael says he moved to Morecambe to be beside the water once again.
“I used to work for Salford council as a drugs and alcohol interventions officer, working with prolific offenders who are in and out of prison,” he said.
“I liked the job and Salford is a great council. But I was burned out, mainly from the travelling.
“There’s a massive growth in the cafe industry so we started looking at premises in Morecambe.”
Last month Michael and his wife Chereth opened The View. It’s an appropriate name for their cafe, as it overlooks the stunning Bay. The View is a bit like Dotty’s Vintage, the town’s other retro clothes shop, only in reverse. Michael’s spotlessly-clean and welcoming cafe sells drinks, freshly-cooked snacks and healthy meals, and has a vintage theme.
There is a rack of vintage clothes on sale in the corner. The walls are adorned with black-and-white photographs. A pattern of vinyl records covers the front of the counter and there’s even an old 1950s Bush wireless donated by a painter called Lenny, who’d been working on the new Italian restaurant L’Amico next door.
“My wife loves vintage,” says Michael. “People have taken to it straight away. They love the sky blue decor and the beach theme.”
If Morecambe town centre is to turn the corner, small businesses need to work to encourage each other.
As a newcomer to the ‘Clock Tower’ area of the seafront, Michael says his fellow shopkeepers have welcomed him with open arms.
“Everybody has been so friendly. John from Seagull Amusements, he’s been here since 1977. He’s been a guru to me, he gives me tips.
“I’ve had support from Tony Vettese at the Old Pier Bookshop and Paul Hart from the rock shop. Huey O’Hagan came over from the Clock Tower Cafe on my first day to say good luck.
“Hayley from Town House Boutique is really enthusiastic and positive, and Logo Signs and Morecambe Press have also been a big help.
“We get on really well with Amanda from Dotty’s Vintage too. We encourage each other. If one of us does well, so will the other.”
Michael says The View has made a promising start and he’s definitely backing our #SOSMorecambe campaign. As a new business himself, he says it’s worth investing in the town.
But having worked for the authorities in the past, he’s well aware of the help they could give to small businesses.
“One area where we do need help is rate relief.
“As a new starter business, I get 12 months rate relief which saves me £5,000 a year. It would be nice for that to continue because it takes more than 12 months to get established. It could be the difference between going bust and carrying on.
“It is scary, being new. But we are getting lots of different people coming in from all over. We had some people from Norway the other day.
“We want to turn this into something more than just a cafe - a place where people want to come back to.”
Michael is the kind of positive and enthusiastic character our town needs.
“We see something different from our window every day,” he says. “We love it here in Morecambe and we’re looking forward to helping rejuvenate it.”