When Mick Caswell and his wife Paula close the door of Vittles café in Broomhill for the last time on Sunday, they’ll remember the loyal regulars who’ve called in for breakfasts, lunches, drinks and snacks for 30 years.
“They’re like friends, they’re not customers,” said Mick.
“When I leave here it will bring back memories of those people and the discussions we’ve had, the crosswords we’ve tried to do... We’ve had quite a few messages from people saying they’re sad to see it go.”
Vittles opened on Glossop Road in 1986, with the Caswells taking over from the original owners in 2012.
The traditional café sells inexpensive food made with local ingredients, but as Broomhill is increasingly becoming a hotspot for new openings, Mick said Vittles had been squeezed out by the competition as the suburb reaches ‘saturation point’.
“When I moved in there were five food and beverage outlets in a 100-metre radius, I can count 14 now. Even things like giving planning permission for Sainsbury’s - they sell coffee and takeaway food. Everything has an impact.”
He added: “We buy 100 per cent from Sheffield, and it isn’t cheap for me to buy. We buy quality stuff - Moss Valley sausages, Turners bread. Saturday and Sunday are fine but Monday to Friday we struggle to get people in.
“If you look at other businesses, if they start to fail they do what we do, put breakfasts on their menu. The only places that won’t do that are the specialist ones, like the pizza place that came last year, but they can put offers on, a pizza and a drink for £6.”
Just three customers visited during a recent Thursday lunchtime, said Mick, 51, who bought Vittles after being made redundant from his job as an IT manager. The café has nine staff, mostly part-time, and Mick said he is currently ‘doing 90-odd hours a week’.
Broomhill needed to attract more people in different ways, he said. “We used to get customers from the library all the time but we never see them since it went part-time. There are no street markets like Sharrow Vale. However, if you’re a swanky new restaurant, you’re going to draw people in of an evening from outside the area.”
Vittles will be open as usual on Sunday, with a private party for former staff in the evening.
“We’ll be opening the doors as usual and trying to provide the same service and quality of food as we’ve always done. Regulars will be coming in to see us and wave us goodbye.”
The business has been sold but Mick is sworn to secrecy on the details. “It will be an exciting new place for Broomhill - it won’t be a cafe and it won’t be Vittles any more.”