#backtobusiness: Flooded Ironbridge café team 'eternally grateful' for community's backing of food truck

The owners of an Ironbridge Gorge café that hit rock bottom when it was flooded three times in two weeks can finally see light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a donated food truck and a supportive community.

The 'butty wagon' outside the Dale End Café
The 'butty wagon' outside the Dale End Café

The Dale End Café in Coalbrookdale has been washed out and unable to trade since a flash flood in February when a nearby brook burst its banks.

Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge have all poured on the misery since and caused thousands of pounds of damage to the building and equipment, with owner Chris Harrison admitting he and wife Sharon Shenton were at "rock bottom" and "thought it was all over".

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He said that without the support of the community to pump water from the café they would have given up. Instead they released a plea for a mobile food truck to make some money while the clean-up was going on.

"We had so many people offering us wagons we could have started a music festival," he joked.

Eventually a 'butty wagon' was secured from Telford Transport Solutions and its first day of trading on the café car park was yesterday.

The café's loyal customers came along in force, with Chris and his team getting through more than 100 slices of bacon and scores of sausages, plus litres of coffee.

A rare day of good weather created an al fresco atmosphere, with some people eating on picnic benches and others staying on their feet.

Two of those who turned out to enjoy a sandwich and coffee were Samantha Rigby and partner Tim Williams, who until recently lived in the gorge.

"It's heartbreaking," said Samantha. "I know how hard they've worked to get it up and running, they put their heart and soul into this place.

"We will try and get back as often as we can until they're back on their feet.

"I think it's great that [Telford & Wrekin Council] have made parking free too, to bring people back down here."

Regulars

A retired couple who gave their names only as Pam and Ray were enjoying breakfast rolls and coffee, while sharing a laugh with the people around them.

They said they have been regulars at the café since they moved to Coalbrookdale 18 months ago, when they were given a warm welcome with sandwiches and tea.

Ray, 78, was also grateful for the staff's company when Pam, 79, was ill in hospital.

Pam said: "It was so upsetting to see Chris during the flooding walking around with his waders on.

"He got a big hug off me.

"It's nice to be here again. Although we're not in the cafe it's still got the same feeling here.

"We've missed it the last few weeks."

Ray said: "The people who come to the café, they will have a chat with you.

"We wanted to show our support."

Chris Harrison said that he was "humbled" by the support from regulars, other businesses and even tourists from as far afield as Australia who have donated to an online fundraiser.

"We genuinely are humbled, they are amazing people," he said.

"We have had people we have never met turn up today because they have heard about our plight.

"We are going to be eternally grateful.

"We are determined [to rebuild] but we are being pushed by the people behind us.

"I haven't got enough fingers to thank everyone I would like to thank – but thank you."

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