WITH a huge regeneration project in the pipeline for Earlestown, businesses in the town say it can't come quickly enough.

As previously reported by the Star, Earlestown was successful in securing £20m from the Government's Levelling Up Fund earlier this year, intended to transform its town centre and surrounding areas.

Famed for its 700-year-old open air market - which moved to its current location in the 1890s - Earlestown's Levelling Up bid centred around plans to reimagine the town's market square, along with proposals to restore the iconic Town Hall and make significant improvements to the local train station.

The plans have been mostly welcomed by the community, but after discount retailer Wilko became the latest casualty of the high street last month, following the closures of other shops, pubs, and banks, business owners are desperate for the regeneration work to begin and give the town a much-needed shot in the arm.

READ > The pub that 'hit the ground running' after refurb and 'hasn't stopped since'

St Helens Star: Earlestown's market square will be reimagined in regeneration plansEarlestown's market square will be reimagined in regeneration plans (Image: St Helens Council)
Owners of the much-loved Crumpets cafe on Market Street for the past 31 years, Ken and Marg Punshon have witnessed the "steady decline" of the high street, which they say has been rapidly accelerated by the pandemic.

Ken, 73, said: "Business is a bit more erratic and weather dependant now, and we don't get the same patterns that we used to have before the pandemic.

"We saw two other cafes near to us close because of covid and things have still not gone back to normal.

"The markets and town centre just seem a lot quieter now and everything is all over by 2pm."

St Helens Star: Ken outside the beloved Crumpets cafeKen outside the beloved Crumpets cafe (Image: St Helens Star)
Despite Crumpets being adored for its welcoming atmosphere and traditional food options for more than three decades, Ken admitted that the business would not have survived if it wasn't for the financial support offered by the council and government.

And after he and Marg have had to delay their retirement due to the money spent keeping Crumpets afloat, the business owner said that it is "the sooner the better" in regards to Earlestown's regeneration plans.

He added: "I know some people are skeptical about the regeneration but it's not working as it is now, so we may as well put everything we have into it and get the benefits from it."

St Helens Star: Earlestown Premier Butcher, on Market StreetEarlestown Premier Butcher, on Market Street (Image: St Helens Star)
A little further down Market Street, Colin Roddan, at Earlestown's Premier Butchers, said he has also has seen a "gradual decline" in footfall over the years.

A figure of Earlestown's high street for more than two decades, Colin said that the butcher's has been able to withstand much of the these difficulties because of its trusted reputation, but admitted that there is minimal footfall on the high street during the week.

Colin said: "I think we are one of the busier shops on the high street and we have people drive here just for us.

"But since covid, there is not the same footfall in the town at all. There was already a gradual decline but covid felt like the final nail in the coffin.

The butcher explained that footfall and business does usually improve once the markets are open on Fridays and Saturdays, but added that a regeneration boost is "what we are all hoping for".

St Helens Star: Margaret Stout inside CelebrationsMargaret Stout inside Celebrations (Image: St Helens Star)
Running Celebrations, a card and gift shop on Bridge Street, for almost 23 years, Margaret Stout has similar feelings to Ken and Colin as she has also witnessed a drop off in custom since the pandemic.

Priding her shop as a "meeting hub" where anyone can come in for a chat, Margaret said that her shop has been doing well despite the pandemic and cost of living crisis, suggesting that cards and gifts are eternal necessities for birthdays and celebrations.

However, after being a part of the family business since 1976, Margaret said she had already noticed a declining trend of custom since the rise of online shopping.

As this has added to the "shocking" decision to leave Earlestown without a town centre bank, and the difficulties brought about by the pandemic and cost of living crisis, she noted that she has seen fewer customers and particularly older residents coming into Celebrations.

St Helens Star: Mohammed and Abdul outside Good Burgers on Stanley StreetMohammed and Abdul outside Good Burgers on Stanley Street (Image: Good Burgers)
Despite the difficulties that have faced Earlestown traders of late, there have been some businesses who have decided to take a punt on the town with the forthcoming regeneration that is planned.

Becoming a popular location for its smash burgers and milkshakes, Good Burgers celebrated its first anniversary in Stanley Street this month.

Opened by lifelong friends Mohammed Miah and Abdul Rouf last October, the pair noted that the footfall isn't as good as they hoped in Earlestown, but their popular reputation online keeps them going with reams of delivery orders.

St Helens Star: Brendan with daughters Lola and Aliyah at Cafe 303Brendan with daughters Lola and Aliyah at Cafe 303 (Image: Brendan Quinn)
In addition to this, Cafe 303 opened as a family business on Oxford Street last month, with the owners Brendan and Andrea Quinn experiencing some "very busy" days after their launch.

While Brendan also admitted that business can be up and down and weather dependent, he said that he has been encouraged by the community of business owners in Earlestown, who all work to better the town.

With the first phase of Earlestown's regeneration planned to begin in Spring 2024, Brendan and the family hope to cement the cafe's reputation as a quality place for coffee and food by the time the regeneration plans start to take effect.