Baker and shops helping create street that's a town of its own

Elsa Jelley opened Jelley Bakes this week
Elsa Jelley opened Jelley Bakes this week -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

A teenage baker and entrepreneur is helping lead the revival of an area that spent decades in decline.

Elsa Jelley is one of a band of spirited shop and café owners turning a part of Birkenhead town centre into a bustling hub of independent, high quality businesses.

Behind Birkenhead's Hamilton Square, ventures ranging from a Parisian-style café, Amelie, to the sweet treats of 19-year-old Elsa’s Jelley Bakes, are slowly transforming streets.

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With Market Street at the heart of the area, many of those who make it their place of work insist it is fighting back from the economic difficulties of recent times.

The land around Market Street, Argyle Street and Hamilton Square is earning a trendy tag, with venues such as Future Yard and Woodside Ferry Village popping up and bringing both creatives and foodies to the area.

Jelley Bakes opened only this week on Market Street but when the ECHO dropped in, customers were queuing out of the door.

Elsa Jelley, owner of Jelley Bakes
Elsa Jelley, owner of Jelley Bakes -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Owner and baker Elsa said: “I started baking when I was 11 in my mum and dad’s kitchen, basically just making a load of cakes for my family.

“Then during covid, it blew up and my mum and dad decided it was time to move the operation out of the house. I got this place and my family and I did it up."

She added: “Market Street has a huge amount of footfall. Even when we were checking out the property, the amount of people we saw walking past it was amazing.

“It’s also surrounded by offices so if one person from an office comes in then the whole office comes in. It’s a good little place for business really.”

Not many 19-year-olds can boast running their own business and some might find the prospect daunting. However, Elsa has taken it in her stride: “It’s fun - I’m my own manager! I get to make decisions such as what I sell in the day and what I can bake. I can speak to customers and make a living out of it."

Despite being open for less than a week, the catering student already feels at home. She said: “I’m friends with the sandwich shop and the charity shop.

“It’s a proper community; you’ll walk past and someone from up the road knows someone from down there, and people all go to the pub together.”

Across the road from the fledgling Jelley Bakes stands a long-established sandwich bar with a loyal group of customers. The Lunch Bunch, formerly Lunch and Judy, was taken over by Rachael Downey last August from her long-time friend and former colleague, Judy Shepherd.

Jo Ward (left) and Rachael Downey (right) from the Lunch Bunch
Jo Ward (left) and Rachael Downey (right) from The Lunch Bunch -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

The shop is something of an institution for those who work in the area and offers everything from breakfast to sandwiches to jacket potatoes. The business also does outside catering.

Rachael told the ECHO: “Judy made contact with me and asked me if I was interested in buying the place. I loved being in Market Street way back when it was really thriving and there were pubs up and down the road.

“I came in, had a little look at what was going on and decided to buy. Since we opened, we’ve seen lots of new faces, lots of old faces, new things introduced to the menu. I’s done really well."

She said: "I think the area is gradually on the up but it would be nice to have a cash injection. It could be back to what it was like years ago and it’s got potential for sure."

Businesses in the area work with one another, according to Rachael, who added: “We work with charity shop Make it Happen, cooking pies on a Friday for them to sell at a cheaper rate and help people who can’t afford to get a meal.

"We also have a bit of a negotiation process where we will give them lunch and they’ll give us vegetables for soup.

“The young girl in Jelley Bakes has put leaflets in here and then taken a load of ours. So we work together and the relationships that we have got work really well."

Across the road at Make it Happen, team leader John McCormack outlined some of the work which they do for the less fortunate in the community. He said: "We offer the usual clothes but also intercept food from the supermarkets to sell at a discounted price.

Market Street
Market Street -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

"We’ll cook food and give people some for free if they’re a bit down on their luck. People will come in for clothes and they will pay what they feel: if they can only pay £2 for a jacket then so be it.

"We keep all of our customers’ names on the till and we know them all – there is a good community spirit."

John used to drink on Market Street when he was younger and despite the community spirit he speaks of, he believes it has "gone down the nick" in the past 40 years: “I used to drink on Market Street in the 70s and 80s when there were 12 pubs up here - now there’s one.

“The whole of the street has changed, as has Birkenhead . There was talk of pedestrianising the road but that hasn’t happened.

"It was a hub - you used to have all people doing the pub crawl, 'Skid Row' we called it. We had the club, Jimmy’s, which is now an old people’s home, so that sums it up really. But it is good in the respect that we have a good community."

Turn off Market Street onto Hamilton Street and you'll find yourself at Amelie, a Parisian-inspired coffee shop. As soon as you step inside, the classical music and décor take you from Birkenhead to the boulevards of the French capital. Not to mention the excellent coffee, sourced from award-winning Wirral roasters, Adams & Russell.

Michelle Cadwell from Amelie Coffee Shop
Michelle Cadwell from Amelie Coffee Shop -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Although Amelie serves some food, such as sandwiches and sugary treats, hospitable manager, Michelle Cadwell, insists they are more coffee shop than café, and that the business, now two years old, is “going really, really great”.

She said: “The owners are a lady and her husband. I think they got the inspiration from when they went to France. It’s the Paris vibe we go for – you feel very Parisian in here and then you step outside and you're in Birkenhead.

“I love working here - Hamilton Square is stunning and the buildings are gorgeous. You don’t realise how stunning it is until you actually work here and take it in. We’re lucky to have this place.”

She added: “This area is back on the up again; it just needs a little bit of TLC and a bit of money pumped back into it.

“The thing about each business here is that we all offer something different and no-one’s in competition with anyone else. We’re all just out trying to do our best.”

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