The Lakeside Café, Ellerton

The Lakeside country café and shop at Ellerton upon Swale near Richmond has been sold to military veteran and entrepreneur Simon Hilliard, who plans to invest over £200,000 in the venue to create a destination championing local producers, and with plans to stage a year-round programme of family events.

The well-known tearooms and shop were sold earlier this month by commercial property estate agent Ernest Wilson on behalf of owners Graeme and Sarah Thompson, who have sold the business in order to focus on their neighbouring caravan park and activity lake.

Mr Hilliard, who was part of an elite Royal Artillery surveillance unit based at Catterick Garrison until he left the army in 2004, has fond memories of visiting the country café with his children. He has now bought the venue, which he will run as a family business with his partner Jayne Robinson and his three grown-up children Kayleigh, James and Sadie. Ten new jobs are expected to be created over the coming months, expanding the Ellerton Lakeside team to 25 staff.

As well as a complete renovation of the 70-cover café, Mr Hilliard’s plans for the venue, seven miles from Richmond, include expanding the site’s farm shop. It will stock a range of local produce including fresh meat, chutneys, honey and ice cream, some of which will be white-labelled and sold under the Ellerton Lakeside brand.

“There are so many fantastic local producers, many of whom already supply the café with the ingredients used to make the dishes our customers enjoy so much, so we thought it made perfect sense to create a showcase for them by expanding the farm shop. We’ll be stocking the highest quality food and drinks from the local area and we know the demand is there for this type of retail experience,” explained Mr Hilliard.

Ellerton Lakeside has also announced plans for a rolling programme of family-friendly events at the 5,000 sq ft venue, including a ‘winter wonderland’ experience, which will launch in November, as well as a German-style Christmas market.

“There are lots of local families, including from Catterick Garrison, who are looking for activities they can enjoy doing together,” said general manager Jayne Thompson. “We’re planning to broaden the appeal of this amazing place by creating great experiences that are done really well and will appeal to a diverse range of visitors,”.

Michael Peel, sales manager at Ernest Wilson, said: “The demand for small businesses is massively outstripping supply in our post-pandemic economy as so many people are looking for a new direction and to forge a rewarding new career for themselves.

“Simon and Jayne’s inspiring plans for Ellerton Lakeside demonstrate the ingenuity and creativity that are the hallmark of successful entrepreneurs and we wish then the very best of luck with their ambitious venture.”

Mr Hilliard added: “After leaving the forces I worked all over the world in the oil and gas and mining industries and it’s really exciting to be back in Yorkshire embarking on this new adventure with my family, working together to make Ellerton Lakeside  brilliant asset for the whole area.”