Sunderland cafe Louis to close after almost 100 years of trading
Tears are expected to flow today as a Sunderland dining institution which has been going for almost a century closes its doors for the final time.
Family-run Louis Cafe is shutting its Park Lane restaurant at 5pm after owners took the difficult decision to cease trading.
The business first started in Ryhope in 1924 and later opened in Crowtreee Road in Sunderland city centre before moving premises to Park Lane in 1975.
But no longer will pies, burgers and sandwiches and many more favourites be served up at the two-storey cafe, which has remained ever popular with Wearsiders through the decades.
Current owners Maria Lee and her brother Ged Maggiore, whose grandfather Louis created the restaurant, say that although they are still inundated with customers, the time is right to hang up their aprons and retire.
An emotional Maria, 61, whose husband Stephen also works at Louis, told the Echo: “This is a family decision but a very difficult one.
“We can’t do this forever even though we’ve always enjoyed our work.
“All of the people who come in here, I feel like they are my family so it’s an extremely sad time right now.”
Maria’s brothers Phillip and Anthony were also involved with the running of Louis, which currently has 11 members of staff, but Phillip retired more than a decade ago while Anthony sadly died in August 2009 while doing a charity bike ride.
“There’s no-one left in the family wanting to take things on so although it’s with a heavy heart we’re happy with what we’ve decided,” added Maria, who has worked at Louis for 33 years.
“The amount of cards we’ve had sent in is amazing and the messages being put on Facebook are so kind.
“Since I’ve worked here, I’ve seen families grow up, from parents bringing in their children to those kids becoming parents themselves.
“We’ve loved being here and the people say they love us too so it’s certainly been reciprocated.
“We have tried to serve everybody, from the first person of the day to the last, with the same enthusiasm and care.
“That was always drummed into us and we hope we’ve carried it on.
“We’re very proud.”
Regular customers at Louis spoke of their sadness that the popular venue is to close.
“I come in all of the time because they bake home-made break which tastes great,” said Wayne Drakes, 39, of Shotton Colliery.
“The staff are so friendly as well so it’s a real shame that they will be going.
“They’re very understanding people who are helpful if customers with disabilities or learning difficulties come in for something to it.
Couple Harry Hickey and Pam Clinch have been visiting Louis for several years.
“We’re very sad about it,” said Pam, 73, of Washington.
“The staff are great and the food is lovely too.”
Harry, 76, who is from Newcastle, said: “We’ve eaten all over the country and to be honest we’ve never found another place like this.
“We’ll have to find somewhere else but we don’t think it’ll be the same.”
The building is now up for sale with a sign outside advising who potential buyers can contact.
“It would be nice to see it stay open as a cafe or restaurant and we just hope whoever gets it cares for the place,” added Maria.