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How Altrincham Market reinvented and supercharged the South Manchester town

Alty Market has been “the catalyst for change” in Altrincham this past decade
Altrincham Market

Altrincham Market and Market House is the award-winning foodie hub driving the south Manchester suburb’s rejuvenation.

Located in Trafford, Altrincham is an original market town with a charter going way back to 1290.

Altrincham’s market, which dates back to 1879, was re-invigorated by Trafford Council in 2013 in a project backed by Jenny Thompson MBE and Nick Johnson MBE. It was part of a bid to revive Altrincham Town Centre as a ‘modern market town’.

What’s in Altrincham Market?

Altrincham Market view from Market Street

The outdoor sheltered market hosts a buzzing hive of activity, filled with salt-of-the-earth indie traders showcasing a variety of products – a local butcher, baker, artisan food and fresh produce.

And it’s not just food. Vintage clothing, jewellery, contemporary craft and homeware also feature in an eclectic mix.

Altrincham Market atrium

The Market House has been converted into a permanent gusto hub and canteen with an ultra-friendly atmosphere where people can eat from a variety of top-notch vendors.

The hall hosts six kitchens and two bars and is home to some of the best independent Northern food operators.

Alty Market food traders

Altrincham Market's Market House

Market House traders are Honest Crust, cooking up fresh wood-fired pizzas that are among the finest in the UK; Wolfhouse Kitchen, run by former Rose Bakery chefs; Tender Cow, serving breed flat iron steak & chips; Jack in the Box craft beers; Reserve Wines (run by BBC Food & Drink Kate Goodman) wine bar/shop; Great North Pie Co. with proper northern standard pies, smooth mash and thick gravy; Sam Joseph’s hand made chocolates and Market House Coffee serving up Atkinsons of Lancaster coffee.

The service staff work for Alty Market and are assigned to different vendors each week.

And be warned. There are no table reservations, and at peak times it can be rammed.

Jenny Thompson MBE and Nick Johnson MBE

Altrincham Market's Jenny Thompson and Nick Johnson
Jenny Thompson MBE and Nick Johnson MBE

Johnson and Thompson have helped pioneer the food hall concept since transforming Alty Market. They have extended it to Mackie Mayor in Manchester and the Picturedome in Macclesfield. They’ve also opened a pub near Nantwich, the Nag’s Head , which made the Good Food Guide just a year after it was refurbished and reopened.

Bolton-born Johnson has been involved in regeneration for 35 years. First with his own company when he was heavily involved in the aftermath of the Manchester bomb and then as a director of Urban Splash, the metropolitan regeneration company.

He was also chairman of Marketing Manchester for seven years, and with partner Thompson established their reputation in the food sector as the owners of Atlas Bar in the city centre.

After Johnson left Urban Splash in 2012, he and Thompson turned their attention to where they live. They agreed on a deal with Trafford Council, who had run Altrincham Market for decades, to take over the operation of the market in exchange for a six-figure grant.

Altrincham Market's Nick Johnson MBE

Relaunching the covered market in September 2013, they spent £550,000 of the council’s money to expand and rejuvenate the historic Market House. It reopened a year later and pursuaded property developers to support independents by treating food and drink as part of the PR budget.

“It’s been one of the most exciting and rewarding periods in our lives and a delight to spend so much time amongst so many talented people,” said Jenny and Nick who both received MBEs in the King’s New Year’s honours list for services to Business and the Food Sector.

“For that to be recognised by an honour each, is a privilege.”

The model may not have reinvented the wheel but the rejuvenation of Altrincham Market has pretty much single-handedly transformed the posh but dead dormitory suburb into a sociable place.

Ange at Fire Station Square Pottery has been trading at Alty Market for over seven years now – just less than three years after the transformation. She has seen first-hand how the market has boosted the surroundings.

“When we arrived there were no bars and restaurants around here,” says Ange who previously traded at Manchester Christmas Markets.

“There was just the market and the market house, so all the surrounding businesses are a result of the success here and has created a foodie revival in the area.

“The market survived Covid with all the same traders back in [after the pandemic] and I think if it can get through that, it can get through anything. Alty Market seems to go from strength to strength.”

Straight-talking Joe from Joe & Co sells hand-crafted luxury workwear and was another market trader who got in early after the transformation and opted for a stall over a shop unit on the high street.

Joe & Co were shortlisted for the Most-Loved Fashion Icon Award at the 2023 I Love Manchester Awards.

“I’ve had shops and lost them in the financial crisis so I came here and you can’t get a better audience. If I was in a shop now I’d be twiddling my thumbs and I’d be skint.

“Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s quiet but [when it is] you talk to your fellow stall-holders. You couldn’t do that in a shop – it’s the best move I’ve ever made, this. And long may it continue.”

Joe also believes that the market has transformed the town and its high street.

Joe at Altrincham Market

“If it wasn’t for the market they’d all be drinking and eating in Wetherspoons. Look at all the new places that have opened around it – all new bars and eateries all around it.

Gails [the London bakery group] has moved into Altrincham – that tells you something, doesn’t it? Everybody’s copied the blueprint [for the modern market model] which is not a bad thing because it’s great for towns. You can’t knock Altrincham.”

Joe appreciates the community spirit of the market in an area that attracts people who value good quality denim and apparel.

“You’ve got those with a few quid, you’ve got those without a few quid, and it mixes quite well here. We don’t mither people, we just have a good craic.

“You’d be surprised, I get people from all over the country coming to see me and buy my stuff.”

You also can shop Joe & Co online here

Don Grant

Don is a local artist who set up a stall at the market ten years ago as Don Grant Artwork (check out his website here). He’s personally seen “a massive transformation in the town” since Alty Market has been up and running. “The high street was dead [before Alty Market]. It was all charity shops and people were going to the Trafford Centre to shop.

“Now, because of the success of the market, new independent bars and restaurants have opened in the area basically because of this place. It’s a fab area. If the weather’s right on the weekend and you’re sitting outside, it’s like being on another continent. Really refreshing.”

Altrincham Market Wesley Harding
Wesley Harding

Photographer Wesley Harding has been here since the inception of the modern market, while selling his prints (buy online here) at other markets such as Makers Market and Salford Quays, before settling at Alty Market lockstock in 2014.

“It’s great here, you get your regular customers and also people who have come here for the first time. This market has regenerated the whole area. There was nothing here when I first got here – it was sparse. Now, it’s all bars, food and buzz.

“I don’t think this place gets enough kudos for what it’s done for the area. I think there’s a few businesses on the high street that don’t like it that much but they’re benefitting from it because people wouldn’t come here otherwise.”

Businesses surrounding market second that emotion.

The Con Club was one of the first bar restaurants to open opposite the reinvented market about seven years ago. The all-day spot and microbrewery opened in 2016 in a former working men’s club and is thriving. Owner David Vanderhook, a better-looking Ricky Gervais lookalike, moved to Alty with his family about 14 years ago.

Altrincham Market
Credit Wesley Harding

“The market has made a massive difference to Altrincham,” he says. “We always had our eye on this building anyway but when we bought it the area exploded. Now you’ve got all these small businesses around here all making decent money [off the back of the transformation] and all offering something a little bit different.

“We love the market traders and the independence of it all. We’re just getting a grip of all our costs that have gone through the roof recently and we’ve got the minimum wage policy to contend with shortly but we’re optimistic.

“You can’t reduce the bottom line and you can’t affect the quality of the offer so you always have to be doing the numbers. But you just look at the place – it’s busy and buzzing.”

Altrincham named happiest place to live in Greater Manchester

California-born Justin Orozco, one of the most popular individuals in the area who can’t finish a sentence without waving to someone he knows, moved from across the pond to with his wife Diana around 20 years ago, settling in Altrincham.

Inspired by hospitality and “friendly people”, they opened popular California Coffee and Wine on Oxford Road, which was shortlisted for the Most-Loved Casual Restaurant Award at the 2023 I Love MCR Awards.

Last year, they opened a new cafe bar concept, West Beverly, directly facing the market. They had their eye on the units around the market which Justin labelled “the star and director of the movie” before the Covid pandemic hit.

Although he strongly believes Alty Market pointed the town in the right direction, he also puts the success of the local businesses or as Justin calls them, the “supporting cast of the motion picture”, down to the affluent surrounding areas of Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

“Ultimately, it all started with the market attracting not just Altrincham residents but people from other places like Bowden, Hale, Timperley, Sale and Cheshire all coming here and it’s beautiful.

“I saw Con Club opening up, SUGO (renamed Rigatoni’s) and you can just smell the success in the air. I wanted to be part of that culture.

“I feel I can celebrate and have a drink with other business owners, exchange advice, really open up and be vulnerable, too. The other incentive to open here [opposite the market] was a scheme by Trafford Council who own a few units offering a loan of around £20K with super-low interest. This was a great safety net for cash flow and it all just felt like the right time for us. ”

Alty Market also has social proof of springboarding independent businesses by kick-starting and building a customer base before opening permanent premises.

Papa Dutch served mini Dutch pancakes from a cart-style stall in the market before growing their customer base big enough to open a permanent cafe on Goose Green nearby.

Co-founder Josh Jorritsma said: “We loved the buzzing atmosphere and how all the other traders were so welcoming and supportive of each other’s businesses.

“Then, when we heard the unit at Goose Green was available, we decided to take the leap of faith and start up our cafe.”

Josh’s father and co-founder, Sjoerd Jorritsma, said: “We are very grateful to Alty Market for letting us start with a temporary spot for our home made trolley, making fresh ‘poffertjes’ during the height of the pandemic. And when we proved to be a popular addition, it was awesome to be offered a more permanent spot, allowing us to grow and add more products such as fresh ‘stroopwafels’ and artisan ice cream. Soon we wanted to add more Dutch treats and proper coffee.

“And as we’ve grown organically, building up a very loyal customer base, the move to our little café was a natural progression. Many of our first costumers are still regulars now. Another benefit of starting at the market was the support and encouragement of other traders.”

They added that the community response had “been incredible”, despite some initial nerves about opening up.

So there you have it.

Johnson’s hope that a rejuvenated market would be a “catalyst for change” in Altrincham has been realised, with Altrincham town centre transformed over the past decade.

Shop at Altrincham Market on Tuesdays and Fridays between 8 am – 3 pm, Saturdays from 8 am – 4 pm and Sundays from 10 am – 4 pm

Eat in the market hall on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9 am – 10 pm and Sundays 9 am-6 pm (only closed on Mondays)

You can find out more about Alty Market on their Instagram by clicking here

Market Street, Altrincham WA14 1SA

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