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Behind the doors of Liverpool’s oldest businesses that have stood the test of time – Liverpool Echo

Behind the doors of Liverpool’s oldest businesses that have stood the test of time – Liverpool Echo

Behind the doors of Liverpool’s oldest businesses that have stood the test of time – Liverpool Echo
August 17
11:50 2020

Liverpool is home to a wealth of longstanding businesses that have stood the test of time.

From John Lennon’s favourite watering hole to the oldest record store in the city, these shops, pubs and restaurants have been at the heart of their communities for decades.

Many of them have been in the same family for generations and have built a loyal customer base along the way.

Like many businesses across the country they have had to adapt to the ever-changing needs of customers and have been hit by the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

But they continue to thrive as pillars of the community.

Here are some of Liverpool’s oldest businesses that hark back to a different era.

Johnson’s Butchers

Johnson’s Butchers on Mill Street, Toxteth pictured Mike Cleaver with his wife Esther. Photo by Colin Lane (Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

Johnson’s Butchers has been a permanent fixture on Mill Street in Toxteth for over 100 years.

The shop was originally owned by Mr Johnson, who back then also owned a supermarket and a bakers on the street.

For the last 38 years the butchers has been in the hands of Mike Cleaver and his wife Esther and is still going strong.

Mike says that what brings customers through the doors each day is the pies – known as ‘Jonno’s pies.’

(Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

Mike told the ECHO: “We sell 200 pies a day, that’s what we’re famous for.

“The original is what we call a Scouse pie and we also do Steak and Kidney and Lamb Balti to order.

“People come from everywhere for them. They come from over the water, from Huyton and Kirkby.

“They don’t go in ones or twos, people buy 10 or 15 pies at once. We sell out everyday. It’s because of the pies that we’re still here.”

Mike said there was a surge in demand during lockdown because people didn’t want to go to the supermarket to buy their meat.

Since restrictions were eased last month he says the demand has slowed down, but the butchers is still popular with regulars and new customers alike.

The Swan Inn

Having a drink at The Swan Inn in Liverpool city centre is like taking a step back in time.

According to blue sign across the front door the pub was established back in 1898.

A photo taken in 1910 shows the landlord John Jones standing outside the pub dressed in a dinner jacket and bow tie.

And the history doesn’t stop there.

(Image: Sunday Echo)

The wooden pews inside the pub date back to the Blitz and are believed to have been taken from the Bombed Out Church before being moved to The Swan years later.

Spread over three floors, the upper floor of the pub was once home to a cocktail bar called The Steering Wheel.

The Steering Wheel, named after the previous owner’s love of motor racing, was frequented by LFC players throughout the 70’s and closed its doors in the mid 90’s.

The Swan became a biker bar in the 1960’s and has been popular with rock and metal fans ever since.

Marketing manager John Storton said: “During lockdown there was a real sense of that community hub because it was closed.

“We started selling t-shirts and merchandise and we made our own Spotify playlist to make sure the jukebox was still available.

“The jukebox has been famous for decades. We also hosted virtual Swan zoom meetings and pub quizzes.

“The loyalty of the regulars has been amazing.”

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Ying Wah

Ying Wah first opened its doors in Woolton village in 1974.

The popular chinese restaurant was taken over by Richard Ng four years later and has been in his family ever since.

Today the business is run by Richard’s son Simon who first started helping out in the restaurant when he was 12 years old.

Since the start of lockdown, Ying Wah has been closed to undergo a major refurbishment.

Owner Simon hopes to reopen for takeaways very soon, while the restaurant is scheduled to reopen for sit down dining at the end of September.

Simon told the ECHO: “The village is so competitive now. That’s one reason why I wanted to change the look of the restaurant.

“We’re creating a mezzanine upstairs so that people sitting upstairs feel like they’re still in the same restaurant.

“It’s been a big job. I’m looking forward to reopening at the end of September.”

Simon has three children aged 12, 10 and 14 months old. He hopes to hand over the reigns of the business to them one day – if it’s what they want to do.

Ye Cracke pub

(Image: Liverpool Echo)

Tucked away on Rice Street in Liverpool city centre you’ll find Ye Cracke.

Formerly called Ruthin Castle, the quaint pub is believed to have served drinks since 1825.

Part of the pub’s charm is that it remains unchanged, with a tiny side room called ‘The War Office’ that’s still there today.

The War Office was a room where military generals would sit to discuss tactics during the Boer war from 1899-1902.

Ye Cracke is also known for being John Lennon’s favourite watering hole.

John Lennon outside of Ye Cracke (Image: Liverpool Echo)

When attending art school in Liverpool, former bartenders claimed Lennon would drink Black Velvet, a cocktail made from Guinness and sparkling wine.

He also took his first wife, Cynthia Lennon, there on their first date after meeting her at a college dance.

Even to this day, a plaque can be found on the wall of the pub, commemorating an occasion in 1960 when Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Bill Harry and Rod Murray attended the pub and formed a band called The Dissenters over a beer.

Today Ye Cracke is run by landlady Zaidia Naif and remains a popular place with Beatles fans from across the globe.

The Musical Box

(Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

You’ll find Liverpool’s oldest record shop, The Musical Box, at number 457 West Derby Road.

The independent shop in Tuebrook has stood the test of time since it opened its doors in 1947.

Shop owner Diane Cain started working at the shop when she was a 13-year-old schoolgirl and over the decades she says she has sold “millions” of records.

Stars who have frequented the store include former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, who bought a record of his favourite hymn, Amazing Grace, from Diane’s mum.

Diane’s memories over the years include DJs coming into the shop on a Friday to listen to the latest releases and how, with the help of American GIs based at Burtonwood, she introduced the music of an unknown Elvis Presley to the city’s youth.

Dorothy Cain, Diane Cain and son Tony inside the family record shop, Musical Box, on West Derby Road in Liverpool circa 1963.
Dorothy Cain, Diane Cain and son Tony inside the family record shop, Musical Box, on West Derby Road in Liverpool circa 1963.

In an earlier interview Diane told the ECHO: “I’ve sold records for over 65 years.

“I don’t think there is anyone else in the country who could say that – who still turns up three days a week. Tony runs the store now and he lets me have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off. Tony does all the work.”

“My uncle Jack was here in 1947 and my mother bought the building in 1951.

“When we first came here there was only electricity on the ground floor. But my dad rewired it on all of the top floors because we lived upstairs.

“So my mum came here in about 1950 and it was toys and records that we sold. It was Dinky, Hornby and Dublo toys and all that sort of stuff that we sold then. We would sell Bayko building sets that you would build toy houses with.”

The Musical Box have created an Instagram account during the pandemic. You can find them @themusicalboxrecordshop

Dafna’s Cheese Cake Factory

Anne Lev, from Dafna’s Cheese Cake Shop on Smithdown Road. (Image: James Maloney/Liverpool Echo)

Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory has been a cornerstone of Smithdown Road since 1977.

Renowned across Liverpool for selling the best cheesecake in the city, the shop is still going strong after 42 years.

In October last year, Anne Lev, 85, who to many of her loyal customers will always be ‘Dafna’, stepped down from behind the counter of her much-loved shop.

The business is now being run by Helen Bond, who has been the manager there for the last five years.

The story of Dafna’s first began after Anne Lev travelled to Chicago in the 1960s, where she had “the most wonderful cheesecake” she had ever tasted.

On heading back to Liverpool, Anne started making cheesecake for her son’s bar mitzvah which, unsurprisingly, “everyone loved.”

During lockdown, Dafna’s continued to sell their popular cakes to people in the city via a delivery service within five miles of the store.

They are now back open for business from Monday through to Saturday, with screens and social distancing measures in place.

Capaldi’s Bagel House

(Image: James Maloney/Liverpool Echo)

The Capaldi family have served the Liverpool public for decades, fondly remembered for selling their own ice-cream from hand carts and then later at their city cafés.

Today though, it is bagels rather than their secret recipe ice-cream that the family specialises in making at Capaldi’s Bagel House – a New York style deli on Rumford Street in Liverpool’s business district.

Owner Mario Capaldi makes fresh food with his sister Daria Capaldi – and for many customers, the sign outside the cafe prompts happy memories of visiting the family’s ice cream parlours in Kensington and Wavertree Road.

Their cafés were initially run by Mario’s Liverpool-born grandad Antonio and then dad Armando, known by many as ‘Mandy’.

Capaldi’s ice cream shop in Kensington, Liverpool, in the sixties

Mario, 48, has run Capaldi’s Bagel House for more than 25 years.

Speaking to the ECHO last year, Mario said: “This shop is known for its fresh pork sausages. We grill them and they come with a bagel.

“People are interested in us because it brings back memories of Capaldi’s Café and they often ask us are we related.”

Because filming takes place around where they work, Mario and Daria have made food for many stars from Hugh Grant to Samuel L. Jackson, Meryl Streep and the Peaky Blinders crew.

The Bread Shop


The Bread Shop on Aigburth Road has been open in Liverpool for more than 60 years.

The independent family-run business serves much more than bread alone.

Owner Alan Gordon, 45 and his team are regularly changing its menu to suit what they find people are buying these days.

Speaking to the ECHO last year, Alan said despite the changes he has made, The Bread Shop, like many independents is still struggling.

He put this down to the major changes to the economy and the area.

During lockdown, The Bread Shop provided a vital service to the community, selling fresh fruit and veg, tinned foods and other groceries.

Customers praised staff at the store who they said had “gone above and beyond” for people during these difficult times.

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Louise Thompson said: “Alan Gordon at the Bread Shop Bakery, Aigburth Road. During this whole lockdown.

“Alan and his team have done what they can to meet the needs of the community and what they need. Always had the essentials you can’t get anywhere else.”

You can find them on Facebook here.

Adam’s Apple

Kat Monaghan and staff at Adam's Apple green grocers on Allerton Road
Kat Monaghan and staff at Adam’s Apple green grocers on Allerton Road (Image: Kenny Glover)

Adam’s Apple on Allerton Road is celebrating 50 years in business this year.

At one time, owner Doug Traynor had 10 different grocery shops across Liverpool – but today his store on Allerton Road is the last one left.

Unlike many high streets which have sadly lost many traditional shops over the years, Adam’s Apple sits on a stretch of road that is like a step back in time.

It has B. Shrigley and Son fish mongers, Brian Clarke and Family butchers and Ray’s bakery all within a few footsteps of each other.

Doug Traynor the owner of green grocers Adam’s Apple on Allerton Road which is celebrating 50 years in business this year (Image: ECHO)

During lockdown, business at Adam’s Apple thrived as people turned to online deliveries, in order to stay home and avoid going to the supermarkets.

But as coronavirus restrictions were eased last month, the shop put out a heartfelt plea to its customers, asking people not to forget about them ‘now things are starting to get back to normal’.

Speaking to the ECHO at the time, shop assistant Kat Monaghan said: “We get a lot of customers who are nostalgic about our shop as it echoes a similar memory of a shop from their childhood. It will be such a shame if these types of family, traditional businesses that together represent the essence of the local culture we love, become swallowed by global giants such as Iceland, Tesco and other large chains.

“The death of the high street will leave areas feeling barren and depressing. Without the support of locals, staying open becomes too difficult and no longer rewarding (both financially but also emotionally).”

M. Ray’s bakery

Michelle Ray from M.Ray Ltd Bakers on Allerton Road (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

Like her neighbours, Michele Ray who owns Ray’s bakery on Allerton Road, inherited a family business that has been in her family for generations.

The first Ray’s bakery was opened by Michele’s grandmother in Prescot in 1924, and 96 years later it’s still going strong.

Having worked in the Prescot bakery from the age of 10, Michele learnt the tricks of the trade from the ground up.

She took the plunge to open a second bakery on Allerton Road in 2012.

Over the past eight years, the Allerton Road bakery has gained a loyal following of customers who pop in everyday.

It is also home to a cafe and serves everything from baked bread to sweet treats, hot sandwiches at lunch times and celebration cakes.

B. Shrigley and Son

Brian Shrigley has worked full time in his fishmongers’ B.Shrigley and Son on Allerton Road, since he was just 16 years old (Image: ECHO)

Brian Shrigley has worked full time in his fishmonger’s B.Shrigley and Son on Allerton Road since the age of 16..

As a joint owner of the business, which he runs with his sister Debbie Molland, Brian has a real passion for the fishmonger’s, which was first opened by his parents in 1966.

Brian has developed a loyal following of customers who regularly pop in to buy some fresh fish and “have a chin wag.”

It’s this quality which Brian says has kept the shop open in the face of massive changes.

But the 59-year-old fears that when he comes to retire, that will be the end for his family business.

Brian Shrigley runs his family fishmongers on Allerton Road with his sister Debbie Molland (Image: ECHO)

Brian told the ECHO:“I was 16 when I first started working here full time. It was fun in those days and it’s still nice now because it’s a different rapport here than in a supermarket, where it’s ‘ding ding’ and then you’re gone.

“We get old people coming in and we talk to them because you don’t know if they’re coming in and then going home and don’t see anyone, which you wouldn’t get in a supermarket

“I’ve got old people who come in here and stand here for 10 minutes just having a little chin wag and it makes them going home knowing that someone cares.”

“It’s quality all the way. We go to the market every day and bring in fresh fish.”

Source: Behind the doors of Liverpool’s oldest businesses that have stood the test of time – Liverpool Echo

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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