PORTRAITS OF THE UNDERBANKS

a place that makes itself

SHARON – HILLGATE CAKERY

I’ve lived in Stockport forever – seen this area at its peak and in worse times. But it’s on the turn for the better – like they’re digging the road up out there and vans will be able to go down. Something positive, they’ve left that space so people can still get by, they’re doing a great job, not stopping any trade.

About five years ago, I worked in Manchester, and as a business you felt very alone compared to now. You were lost in the city. I worked in the Northern Quarter, but the shop had to close when the building started falling down!

The independents on the Underbank support each other; they all want it to work. We’re all on a WhatsApp group together, if there’s anything happening we’ll tell each other about it. It’s not a big city competitive environment – and there are more and more little shops appearing, lots of independent people.

I remember back when the market was thriving, it was busy all the way up the road. That’s gone, but we have Foodie Friday, we have the vintage markets, it’s on the way up. Someone came in the other day, I was chatting to them – I’m terrible with names – they were saying they remembered when the shutters on Winter’s the jewellers were on counterlevers. You can see the pulleys where it all used to be, the whole shop front lowered down below the street throughout the day, then came back up again when they closed.

We have a group of cavers who come in here quite often. They go down the Tin Brook, underground. They come down the street and point, “Oh it comes by under here.” I’d go down, yes, I think it’d be interesting, it wouldn’t bother me being underground.

I work the shop front and I make some of the cakes too. I make the raw, more healthy stuff. Sarah, the owner, makes the full-on sugar cakes. I do love Sarah’s spiced banana bread though. I like being out here too – when you’re working on a cake you’re on your own. I like to have a chat and meet people. The customers are really nice. The cakes are all vegan and the customers have formed a bit of a community. I run a craft night and we have a quiz night every so often. You can chat to people for longer, and they’ll often come back to the cafe for a cake and a coffee. And we get a lot of vegan runners in, who come for a cake and then go for a run.

I’ve been here full-time for a year, but I was helping out and doing odd jobs before that. It opened up and I said I’d lend a hand and it got busier quicker than they expected. In the future, I think this place will be thriving! As long as it doesn’t fill up with vape shops. It could be like Chester or York. We’ve got the heritage. It’s great for showing friends, I’ve had friends from other places in the world come and they’re interested to know the history. People want to know more.

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