The late Phil senior – a one-time lorry driver, nightclub bouncer, debt collector, steelworker, hot dog seller and chip shop owner – took over the former station in 1973, turning it into a Peak District institution, famous for its full English breakfasts and generous platefuls of chips.
Following his father’s sudden death in 2007, Phillip, then 19, took charge on an informal basis, becoming the boss officially when he reached his 25th birthday just under three years ago.
With Phillip at the helm, the Hope Valley café is as popular as ever, particularly at weekends when walkers flock to Padley Gorge and the surrounding countryside.
But now the Grindleford eatery is branching out by opening in the evening from 4pm to 8pm. Bistro nights on Thursday and Fridays are being run on a trial basis and, so far, feedback has been positive.
“I just wanted to try something different to see if it would work,” said Phillip.
“A lot of people come to us towards the latter end of the day, and obviously we were closing, so I thought it would be nice to stay open longer. There are a lot of ramblers later on in the evening.”
Phil senior kept the opening hours to 9am to 4pm during the week, and 9am to 5pm at weekends.
He had a distinctive, larger-than-life character. The café was famed for its notices pinned up around the premises warning against uncontrolled children and dogs, mobile phones and dumping empty plates on the counter, among other directives.
“My father passed away in December 2007 and I pretty much took it on straight away,” said Phillip, who was a year into a business management degree in Leeds when his father died. He immediately decided to pull out of the course and take on the café instead.
“It was held in trust until I reached 25. I just wanted to maintain my father’s legacy, keeping the maintenance up. I’m proud of what he did. The original ticket barriers are still in place - I didn’t want to ruin the character of the place.”
Phillip said he thought the café’s reputation still largely rested on its healthy portions of food: “The chips are always a talking point - we twice-cook our chips. We blanch them, half-cooking them, then cook them again.
“I think our location is important as well, and it’s like stepping back in time coming here – we’ve got a lot of the old features in.”
The new evening menu is distinct from the daytime fare, offering line-caught cod, Aberdeen Angus beef, Barnsley lamb, Bakewell bread and halloumi.
There are also plans afoot to relaunch Grindleford Spring Water, a venture started by Phil senior who began bottling water from the nearby spring.
“We’ve had positive feedback so far - a couple of people have commented on Facebook and Tripadvisor about how all the food is freshly prepared. It’s exactly the same set-up as the daytime, but a completely different menu.”
The evening opening may be expanded, depending on its success.
“It’s quite a stressful job as it is. If the custom is there we could go to three or four nights a week,” Phillip said.
The café is run by a team of eight staff at present.
“We do well. We’re especially busy at weekends. Sunday is our busiest day of the week.”