End of an era at popular cafe after 50 years

After half a century of serving ‘legendary’ homemade lunches, puddings and cakes to generations of Salopians the family behind one of Shrewsbury’s most popular ever cafes is bowing out to retirement.

An era will come to an end when members of the Maddox family, which launched The Market Buffet back in 1968, hang up their aprons for the very last time at the end of February.

It is estimated, that over the years The Market Buffet has served more than two-and-a-half million customers. A new owner is now being sought for the café, based in Shrewsbury Market Hall, and it has already received a lot of interest.

“We have lovely loyal customers and large thanks has to go to all the people who have supported us over the decades,” said Joy Vance, granddaughter of the founder Gwendoline Maddox.

“The fact that the café has been successful for so long has been a testament, not only to the Market Hall, but our loyal customers, many of whom started coming when they were children and are returning with their children and even grandchildren.

“We’ll all miss it desperately because it has been such a major part of our lives as a family for so long.”

Joy is hanging up her apron to spend more time with her grandchildren and to help husband Neil run the family’s mixed farm near Minsterley.

The café was originally opened by Gwendoline back in 1968 on a pannier stall on the market’s main trading floor, with borrowed china cups and saucers. It expanded considerably over the years and for most of its life has filled a large sunny area on the market’s gallery floor.

It is a traditional English cafe offering comforting homebaked pies, all-day breakfasts, snacks and traditional puddings and cakes. It seats up to 80 people and can serve up to 500 customers on a busy Saturday.

Joy took over the helm of the business from her mother Noreen Maddox two-and-a-half-years ago. Noreen had run the café for 41 years. Now, aged 81, she still bakes two days a week, making a large number of the legendary cakes, scones, lemon meringues, and quiches that earned the café its reputation for good, honest, home-cooked food.

“All good things must come to a end,” said Noreen.

“I’ve loved every minute! The best accolade is when someone says my goodness that was great!

“We’ve got customers who were coming when they were children with their grandmas or mothers and now they come with their children or grandchildren. It has been three of four generations of families coming.

“It will be sad but Joy and I will be coming in regularly for coffee to see our old customers and enjoy a chat!”    

Market Facilities Manager Kate Gittins said: “This is not just the end of an era. It’s the end of a much-loved institution. The Market Buffet has been such an important part of the market for so many years. We will miss Joy and Noreen very much.”

Family has been the café’s lifeblood. Nearly all members of the Maddox family have worked at the café, at some stage, over four generations. Joy and her sister Caroline, who also helped Noreen run the café for many years, began as Saturday girls. Noreen and her husband Mike (Gwen’s son) stepped in when Gwen became ill and took over after she died.

Noreen’s mother Olive Grundell also helped out. She brought huge experience, having been a cook at the stately home Stokesay Court in her early life. ‘Nanny’, as she was always known by staff and customers, worked until the age of 91, by then helping out on a Saturday.

Back in the 1980s Noreen was among National Market Traders Federation members who’d organise regular entertainment in the Market Hall. For the market’s annual Christmas carol concert they’d attract celebrity acts such as The Nolan Sisters, The Bachelors and Cannon and Ball.